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  Sex Is Comedy
Year: 2002
Director: Catherine Breillat
Stars: Anne Parillaud, Roxane Mesquida, Ashley Wanninger, Grégoire Colin, Dominique Colladant, Bart Binnema, Yves Osmu, Elisabete Piecho
Genre: Comedy, Drama, SexBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: The gallic equivalent of Abel Ferrara's Dangerous Game? Not exactly, but Sex Is Comedy does echo the former's central theme, offering a voyeuristic account of the pressures of filmmaking.

Jeanne (Anne Parillaud) finds writers block and a pair of warring actors (Grégoire Colin and Roxane Mesquida) are just two of the problems to be negotiated on the set of her latest film. A sex scene between two lead actors who cannot stand the sight of each other presents a challenge for any director, and Jeanne elects to play angel and devil in order to create the painfully intimate moments her script intended.

For Catherine Breillat, Sex Is Comedy partly serves as an autobiographical account of her own experiences: rewind back to A Ma Soeur!, and then observe Parillaud playing Breillat while Roxane Mesquida recalls her own role in the aforementioned film.

Given the potentially erotic subject matter, it's somewhat surprising to discover this is probably Breillat's least sexually explicit film. Here, this controversial director focuses on mood, motivation and differing career perspectives on both sides of the camera.

Colin and Mesquida are especially fine as the bickering leads, while Ashley Wanninger plays an impressive second fiddle to Parillaud who is on the absolute top of her game here. Withering criticism, warm words of praise and deft maneouvres to play one against the other are all part of Jeanne's bag of tricks, and Parillaud draws on her experience and observations to impart tension and humour on her director's behalf. Yes, there are some nice comedic touches – Colin looking ridiculous with a false cock extension poking out of his dressing gown is one such moment – but this is mostly a through the glass darkly look at why these people do what they do.

When the sex scene arrives, Breillat initially errs on the side of decency, placing Colin and his reluctant 'partner' under the bedclothes. It's a little different to Breillat's usual set-ups but the presentation - brillantly propelled by Mesquida's visual expressions – makes it supremely difficult to watch in much the same way as Madonna's encounter with James Russo in Dangerous Game.

For sure, there is a dark side to this film, and many would say the same with regard to Breillat's attitude towards the male gender though her stance in this film, at least, appears to be based on her view of men as actors rather than any shortcomings away from the set. Her latest film – Anatomy of Hell– looks set to put us through the wringer with a far greater degree of intensity, so some of you may wish to spend a little more time with this film before making the descent into god-knows-what.

Not, then, a classic – it's a little too uneven to fully engage the senses – but you should find this to be a worthwhile look at how and why the power shifts when cameras are whirring.
Reviewer: Steve Langton


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