Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
67 of 72 people found the following review helpful
a hard movie to watchOct. 12 2006
- Published on Amazon.com
The film is very thought provoking and doesn't mind pushing buttons or boundaries to achieve this end. Although I agree with another reviewer's (Dexter Tay) assessment that this film certainly pertains to Sartre's "Hell is the Other" view, I do not believe this film is more arthouse porn then art. I find it very interesting that the reviews are fairly divided between the sexes. Females seem to rave about this movie and males seem to find things wrong. Hmmmm.
This film is basically two characters, one female and one male (names aren't used because they don't matter - they are ourselves) who are complete strangers and come together to discuss the real view they have of the "Other" as well as themselves. The setting is very bare as there is no need for props - it is the inter-relationship that is front and center and no diversions are allowed. So even though there are several graphic scenes, be prepared for much more dialogue and philosophical discussions between man and woman then actual sexual content. Two scenes stand out from all others: (1) when the women opines on the ridiculousness of the sanitary outer covering of a tampon to prevent intimacy. The very act by its nature is intimate. Why are men and women horrified by menstruation? This topic is delved into with such honesty that the viewer automatically shies away; and (2) when the man complains to another about the way the woman let him debase her and with every humiliation, asked for more. All the while he is disgusted by her, he is haunted by his own actions.
The whole movie makes compelling comments about us as men and women. Catherine Breillat (director) presents a piece of work (based on her novel entitled, "Pornocrate") that forces the viewer to confront issues buried by morality or social conventions. I applaud her brilliant effort.
33 of 38 people found the following review helpful
Deep insightMarch 24 2005
- Published on Amazon.com
This is, to me, Breillat's best movie. The subject matter of the movie has been delved in by others, so I won't waste time on it. A generic woman finds a gay man, to observe her and explore the perception that men have of women. During the course of four nights, the perception is dissected, and examined. The woman expresses, nude, before this male that is not attracted to her, her deepest concepts of the battle of the sexes. He in turn, although by definition not attracted to women, observes, comments and indulges. In the end, as in most of Breillat's movies, the questions are left for the viewer to answer, and also to ask. The actress, Amira Casar is a beauty, and we see a lot of her. The acting is tightly done, and if appears stilted, it is because the situation is in itself stilted. You will need a stong stomach to watch the whole movie, since there is a particularly revolting scene, but even that scene, fits with the story, and with the desire of the woman to be totally exposed, totally vulnerable and totally degraded. I have watched some of Breillat's work (A real young girl, Romance) and to me, this is the deepest, most thought provoking of her movies. As opposed to the previously mentioned ones, that I watched once and resold, or gave away, I shall keep this one, and will probably watch it again, more than once, to dissect it further. The DVD has an interview with the director, and there we find out why a body double was used for the close-up shots: She wanted a hairy person
61 of 74 people found the following review helpful
French profundity, an introduction....March 7 2006
- Published on Amazon.com
Do you know what you get when you combine porn with art? Lousy porn and even lousier art. Curiosity and some rapturous reviews brought me to Catherine Breillart's films, which I find so dismal I usually wouldn't bother to write about them. But I find the intellectual acrobatics involved in elevating this type of fetishistic dreck into something someone finds profound most interesting and symptomatic of the exhaustion of both the art and the intellectualism that explains it.
Breillart's claim to fame is this marriage of full frontal, hard core porn with her particular intellectual conceits. Here we have another demented Frenchwoman working out her "issues" while having her own very special vagina monologues with a gay man as the camera practically inserts itself in every orifice. Wonderful.
I suppose everything worth doing has been done in art. That is the only explanation for this bankrupt and disheartening work. It isn't that anything is taboo or that the subject matter is off-limits. The male/female dichotomy and sexual relations have always been the subject of art. It is in the execution. The films I've seen so far just aren't very good.
The use of shocking and graphic images here is not insightful, nor does it represent anything revolutionary. They make no statement. They don't breathe life into film, they breathe decay and decline. This is the art of exhaustion and despair. This is the graphic image for its own sake.
Breillart represents nothing more than the celebration of the mediocre. The elevation of mundane rubbish to supposed high art. The never ending contest to out-sensationalize. You could throw a fistful of crap against a wall, and someone would consider it brilliant. Some of us, however, still see it as crap-on-the-wall. A monkey can play with his dung, but he can't write a symphony or a sonnet, and if we exhalt the one, it must be to the detriment of the other.
I don't want to belabor this and ruminate too long on something that is, after all, only a movie that few people will watch, and fewer still will rhapsodize over. I believe that this type of stuff wears itself out and is fairly quickly forgotten. There are only so many ways to shock and sensationalize. Watching Breillart work out her fetishes on screen is recommended soley for the seriously bored.
The ugly, sordid, scatological, and perverse abounds in this life, and it doesn't take a lot of imagination to exhibit it. The capture of elusive and ephemeral beauty, ah, now there's a trick.
21 of 25 people found the following review helpful
A rewarding but flawed film from a terrific directorAug. 6 2005
Matthew E. Armstrong
- Published on Amazon.com
This is a highly flawed film. Indeed, judged by its lofty aims, it is a failure. But the critical reaction to it was largely unfair, especially when it comes to the film's co-star, Rocco Siffredi.
Like most/all of Breillat's work, AoH is a film about the conflict between men and women, and it is delivered in uncompromising fashion. Breillat is a feminist director, but that term should not serve to minimize or constrain her work. Her films make social statements about the consequences of male desire and the subjugation of women, but they are too sophisticated intellectually and emotionally to be limited by labels.
The problem with her work is when the words of her characters do not live up to her intended message, and when she is unable to create onscreen actions which justify the grandiose statements the film and its characters make.
Here, Breillat's message seems to be that the very nature of femininity, indeed the vagina itself, is viewed with a natural disgust by men. The universality of her statement is what prevents it from working. While it may indeed be possible that SOME men view the sex organ with disgust, it seems that many, if not most, instead view it with a combination of curiosity, desire and admiration. Try as she might, her full screen shots of vaginas do not arouse disgust in this viewer, and I most verily possess that pesky Y chromosome.
Breillat attempts to create a mythic quality with the film, making the two characters "the man" and "the woman." But in attempting to create this iconic duality, their desires and responses seem overwrought and unbelievable. The more extreme the behavior (and there's plenty of extreme behavior in this film), the less likely the behavior can be ascribed as the outgrowth of universal desires or predilections. All men and women simply do not feel or think the way these two characters do.
The film is essentially a chamber piece, about a woman (Amira Casar) who recruits a man (Rocco Siffredi) to "watch her where she's unwatchable." They soon embark on a sexual journey in which Siffredi resurrects the juvenile combination of curiosity and cruelty that often shape young boy's behavior.
But the basis of his behavior is at its root unbelievable. While some men may view women as insects, men as compassionate and sensitive and Siffredi's character do not. And as the dialogue becomes more elaborate and vicious, the basic unlikelihood of the character's motivations weighs the film down and makes the dialogue tedious.
But there are real strengths to this film. With every picture, Breillat becomes more and more masterful in her technique. The film is quite beautiful, and Breillat's use of tracking shots create a wonderfully dreamlike quality in the exterior scenes. The scenes of the raging ocean, in particular, are hauntingly beautiful.
And silly dialogue was not enough to ruin Siffredi's performance. Siffredi is a noted pornstar/porn auteur, and not surprisingly he doesn't hesitate to show his genitals throughout the picture. But the real vulnerability that an actor has to show is emotional, not physical. And what a revelation it was to see this porn titan display such tender vulnerability on screen! His performance has received little acclaim, with most critics dismissing it as the kind of stiff acting one would expect from a porn actor. But there is real humanity in his acting, and a graceful presence on screen. Siffredi is a promising actor who will likely never get an opportunity to show it outside of Breillat films. It's a shame.
This film is a must for Breillat fans, but overall it is one of her less cohesive efforts. For a film that better blended great acting with believable dialogue, check out Brief Crossing.
My grade: C+, or 2.5 stars out of 5.
27 of 33 people found the following review helpful
Semi-watchable, but no triumphFeb. 22 2006
- Published on Amazon.com
I have to agree fully with Alexiel's fine review of this film; there's no point in repeating what's been said so eloquently already. It's worth finding and reading. I will add, however, that after seeing this as well as her earlier stuff,it's beyond painfully obvious that Breillat has an agenda and it doesn't include liking men. Her female character's sweeping statements about all men in general are insulting and unintelligent, and having a gay man speak for all men about how they view women is naturally, a bit skewed from the git-go. The sex isn't erotic in the least, and the shock value is so obviously there to shock, it just ends up as cinematic sludge.
This is simply not an artistic film, but a dry and fairly pointless one. The ending in particular borders on inane.