French films Fat Girl and Sex is Comedy
The French certainly have a way with the cinema. From Godard to Tati to Catherine Breillat, they're not afraid to incorporate a sense of humor with sex, and to explore strange, unconventional, non-linear, or slower-paced storylines. As a female director, Breillat is a risk-taker, the most profound risk of which, in my opinion, involve her back to back films Fat Girl and Sex Is Comedy.
In 2001, Fat Girl challenged the notion of female sexuality when an overweight, thirteen-year-old girl becomes obsessed with sex, unlike her slightly older sister who, although much more beautiful, has reservations about sex and considers it dirty. In one poignant, almost unbelievable scene, the older sister, Elena, is in bed with her new boyfriend while "fat girl" Anais is "sleeping." The boy pressures Elena into sex, but she decides that anal sex is the less sinful option, and they engage in this act while Anais is wide awake and listening.
In 2002, Sex Is Comedy was shot in the style of a documentary, and Catherine Breillat played the director. She's directing another film that involves a very intimate bedroom scene between two young lovers who actually hate each other in "real life." Roxane Mesquida, who played Elena, now plays "The Actress." She prepares to shoot the same anal-sex-in-lieu-of-sex-sex scene she did for Fat Girl. Rather meta, isn't it?
Breillat, as a character, needs to coax Mesquida, as a character, into doing the scene (again) and getting it right. Finally, Mesquida gives the role even more emotion, fragility, power, and pain than she could muster one year earlier shooting Fat Girl. The dual scenes are successful on all levels, and Sex Is Comedy offers a unique look into how the first shooting of this scene might have (or might not have) gone. Maybe we're all just characters leaping in and out of roles and realities, trying to give our best, most convincing performance.