Sex is Comedy (2002)

“You want total obedience or you get destructive.”

As a fan of controversial French Film director, Catherine Breillat, I expect her films to be thought provoking and unusual. Breillat’s films focus on female sexuality and her unique no-holds barred approach is fascinating. Unfortunately, Breillat’s film Sex is Comedy does not match the standard of her earlier films 36 Fillette, Romance, A Real Young Girl and Fat Girl.

Sex is Comedy is the story of a French film director, Jeanne (Anne Parillaud) who is trying to finish making her latest film. The film calls for the two main stars to participate in one romantic scene on the beach, and a final bedroom scene. But there’s a problem–the two young stars–known only as “the Actor” (Gregoire Colin) and “the Actress” (Roxane Mesquida) can’t stand each other, and their lack of chemistry shows in every gesture. This presents a problem for Jeanne. Most of the film shows how Jeanne negotiates her way through this problem by cajoling, coaching, and demanding the performance she wants from each of her stars.

The film shows how the director can be guilty of dehumanizing actors and actresses through expectations of performance (in one scene, Jeanne very deliberately stares at the actor’s fake phallus to undermine his confidence), and the film’s main emphasis is squarely on Jeanne. One cannot help but wonder if the film is based on autobiographical experiences (Breillat directed the film and wrote the script). There are some tantalizing hints that perhaps some sparks will fly between Jeanne and “The Actor”–she calls him a “hustler”, but there are certainly no sparks between Colin and Mesquida. “The Actor” complains about “The Actress”, and after watching a scene or two, we begin to see his point. While those interested in the process of filmmaking may find the film has some merit, I, for one, found the film tedious and boring. The entire idea that a French female film director shows how a French female film director pulls a film together by her unique, irreplaceable and almost svengali-like skills just doesn’t work for me. It’s all a little too navel-gazing (and reminiscent of the films of Henry Jaglom) for my tastes. The DVD comes with optional French, Spanish, and English subtitles.

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