Review of Sex is Comedy by Vincendeau
Vincendeau, Ginette. “What She Wants.” Sight & Sound. 13.5 (2003): n. pag. Wilson Web. 8 Sept. 2010. Web.
About: This article is on Breillat’s film Sex is Comedy. The author discusses, in her opinion, the pros (more truthful, original) and cons (exasperating, auteur character unlikeable) of the film and puts it in the greater context of films about filmmaking in general, and filmmakers specifically.
“Irritation, frustration and boredom are not unusual reactions to Breillat’s cinema; indeed they frequently co-exist with respect and admiration…Sex is Comedy is not much fun” (Vincendeau).
—This reveals a common critical reaction to Breillat’s work – that it is unenjoyable, but deserves recognition for its originality. I believe there is an un-articulated bias apparent in this type of criticism, which is a reaction to the perceived unpleasantness/complexity inherent in Breillat’s subject-matter.
“…it introduces something new, bringing an original point of view to the hackneyed genre of the film about film-making. Indeed, by bringing a strong gender dimension to both the figure of the director and the content of the film-within-the-film, Breillat raises key questions about authorship and representation” (Vincendeau).
—The author acknowledges that the film “raises key questions” emphasizing where it diverges from other European films about filmmaking without exploring any of the deeper implications.
“Breillat says Sex is Comedy was designed to counter the plethora of ‘making of’ films generated by the advent of DVD” (Vincendeau).
—I would love to know where this information came from as Vincendeau’s discussion of documentaries is cursory, and has less to do with the “advent of DVD,” which seems to refer to director commentaries, which are packaged alongside the film.
“In this respect, closes to Sex is Comedy are such post-war European films as Fellini’s 8 ½ (1963), Godard’s Le Mépris (1963), Truffaut’s Day for Night (1973), Wenders’ The State of Things (1982), Asayyas’ Irma Vep (1996) and Bonello’s Le Pornographe (2001)” (Vincendeau).
—The author situates Sex is Comedy within the greater context of European meta-films.
“The myth of the artist as a difficult individual is built on the notion of authenticity, which justifies bad behaviour: arbitrary decisions, changes of mind, extravagant or petty demands…The worse the behaviour, the greater the auteur or artists, the more misunderstood, the more authentic” (Vincendeau).
—This is an astute observation, but Vincendeau herself conflates the auteur figure with the filmmaker him/herself and does not raise the possibility that the auteur-persona is being parodied in these films.
“[Jeanne is] constantly confronted with the significance of her gender: both her choice of subject and her partnership with her male assistant Leo reverse the usual gender pattern (all the more so as Wanninger’s Leo, with his ‘feminine’ long blond hair, contrasts with the image conveyed by Jeanne’s more ‘masculine,’ dark, shorter bob)” (Vincendeau).
—She insists on reversal, comparing Jeanne to Leo, as opposed to Leo and the Actor, which in actuality reveals Breillat’s awareness of different male “types.”
“[Actor Grégroire Colin’s] smooth, youthful body has been used by a number of other women directors (including Claire Denis), and here his character’s insistence on a fake (and huge) penis for the sex scene comments on the insecurities of the actor he plays as well as on the difficulties in representing an erect penis outside porn cinema” (Vincendeau).
—Claire Denis, or Marie-Claire Denis is Breillat’s sister. This is an interesting point – that the Actor insists on the fake, huge penis, which comes to threaten him in his dreams. He is unable to extricate himself from the Lacanian phallocentric sexual economy, which Ince discusses in her article.
“In most films about film-making the imbalance in male-female power relations is conflated with seduction, a point often echoed in a parallel set of actual seductions, typically between director and female star” (Vincendeau).
—This shows Vicendeau’s conflation of the real director with the virtual director on-screen.
“By showing explicitly the manipulative role of the director, by making the male sexual organ grotesque and by downplaying Jeanne’s seductive dimension, Breillat has rendered her on-screen auteur more exasperating, but more truthful” (Vincendeau).
—Vincendeau seems to imply that the film is more authentic, yet less enjoyable that the other meta-films she references.