Friday, July 8, 2011

Movie Review: The Sleeping Beauty

The Sleeping Beauty no stars
Directed by: Catherine Breillat   
Written By: Catherine Breillat & Charles Perrault.
Starring:  Julia Artamonov, Carla Besainou,  David Chausse,  Kerian Mayan.

Catherine Breillat is one of the most incendiary filmmakers in the world. All of her films are obsessed with sexuality, and most of them deal with pure virgins and the dastardly men who rob them of that virtue. In films like Fat Girl, Breillat puts that adolescent sexuality, in all its ugliness and beauty, right in our faces – particularly in a long sequence where the boyfriend of the protagonists younger sister gradually wears down her resistance and gets her to have sex with him for the first time – which of course leads the ugly final scene where the younger sister (the Fat Girl of the title) is thrilled that the rapist picked her instead of her mother or sister. Breillat is a woman who seems both fascinated by the beautiful young bodies she puts on full display in her movies, and yet repulsed by them – often showing sexuality as ugly and dirty and painful. She has made some films that are great – Fat Girl, The Last Mistress – and some films that are simply horrible – Romance, Anatomy of Hell and many that are somewhere in between. Unfortunately, The Sleeping Beauty is one of those horrible films.

Watching The Sleeping Beauty, I became increasingly frustrated, because in all honesty, I really have no idea precisely what Breillat was trying to achieve here. If you want to say I hated the film simply because I didn’t “get” it, then go ahead – I can live with that. But what I saw on the screen was a director flailing around for ideas, trying to make it all seem so important, and looking absolutely ridiculous in the process.

The film is pretentious crap, featuring an adorable 6 year old girl going through one fairy tale setting after another – encountering boiled covered giants, knife wielding gypsies, snippy dwarves, an icy snow queen, topless fairies and evil witches – all before she drifts off for her 100 year sleep. When she wakes up, she is now the type of 16 year old girl that Breillat loves – innocent and naïve, yet curious about sexuality. She first meets an impossibly handsome young man, said to be the great-grandson of her long ago lost love, but when he leaves, she meets up with her old knife wielding gypsy friend (who for some reason hasn’t aged much more than the sleeping beauty herself in 100 years), and they two of them share a lesbian tryst. Then the impossibly handsome young man shows back up, and we are treated once again to Breillat’s favorite scene – that of an innocent young painfully losing her virginity to an insenstivie, uncaring young man who will say anything to get into her pants (although this time it should be noted, he doesn’t have to say all that much).

I’m sure Breillat thinks all of this is terribly important and artistic – and I look forward to reading someone’s no doubt incredibly positive take on the film, explaining to cinematic idiots like myself why this really is a masterpiece. There are admittedly some very strange images in the film (a group of kindergarteners in strange, bright pink kimonos was more disturbing than any of the monsters she encounters), and I suppose you could say that the movie is really takes place in a dream world, so narrative coherence is not really a must – but all of that strikes be as excuse making by critics who want to seem hip and defend a film that almost no one would actually want to sit through. The Sleeping Beauty is an absolute horrible film.

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