Art 0r Porn?

Its detractors call it pornography; its supporters art. Certainly the graphic sex scenes in French director CATHERINE BREILLAT'S Romance have caused great controversy. Words and translation: Nicky Agate

Sex sells. Or rather, the suggestion of sex sells. The act itself is still taboo, done behind closed doors or on the pay-per-view wee hours of Dutch TV, and yet or perhaps therefore we are still obsessed by the voyeuristic thrills of copulation. French director Catherine Breillat is determined to change all that. Her latest film, Romance, has been granted an 18 certificate in Britain, despite scenes graphically depicting masturbation, fellatio, cunnilingus, rape and (debatably) penetration. Yet Breillat claims her film is not pornographic, simply realistic: ‘In my opinion, this is a film that uses sexual imagery as part of a wider theme. People misunderstand the film, because it mixes two types of French cinema - traditional pornography.’

Yet the director is advocating neither the ready availability of pornography in primary school lessons, nor the legalisation of free love for all. She would prefer instead for censorship to be lifted: ‘It’s not that I think we should break these taboos,’ she claims. ‘But we have to understand them. At the moment a taboo subject is seen and accepted, it ceases to become taboo.’

Romance, the story of 22-year-old Marie (Caroline Ducey), a libidinous girl in a non-physical relationship with model Paul, certainly seems to understand taboos, to the extent that it sends them crashing to the ground. Marie believes herself to be in love, and stays with her under- endowed partner despite his obvious abhorrence of her body, satiating her own sexuality with a string of increasingly risque (and graphic) encounters with strangers. ‘We have this repressive morality in society, one that labels sex as something carnal and shameful, something we try to forget afterwards,’ says Breillat. ‘For women, sex is a taboo, and that makes them feel debased and ashamed. Morality has no moral function: it creates an image of ourselves 'that I find fundamentally hideous. I cannot have a horror of myself given to me by my own morality.’

Breillat’s detractors claim the cold sexuality, and

cinema and

28 "IE U87 21 Oct-4 Nov 1999

‘We have this repressive morality in society, one that labels sex as something carnal and shameful.’ Catherine Breillat

Defusing taboos: Catherine Beillat

the lack of morality, in her film have no real artistic merit or purpose. ‘It’s a healing process,’ she counters. ‘I wanted to show that sexuality is not always an act of degradation, nor is it always a case of pleasurable consummation. It can be an exultation, something transcendental, but cinema should be able to show that.’ Yet Marie’s increasingly masochistic encounters, while performed with subjects chosen by her self, are suffered so that she can maintain a damaging and impotent relationship with her mental tormentor. She is tied up, raped, forced to tears; the camera exposes her every distress. It’s uncomfortable to watch, and Caroline Ducey found her role even more so. ‘During the film, she was exalted, she burned, it was like a ritual of sacrifice,’ says Breillat. ‘But when the filming was finished, and she had to return to daily life, she didn’t want anything to do with it.’ Which is hardly surprising, considering it has been claimed that one of the sex scenes (with real-life porn star, Rocco Siffredi) is genuine, and was filmed with Ducey’s reluctant consent. ‘It’s cinema,’ snaps Breillat, revealing nothing. ‘Not an exhibition about the private life of an actress. You don’t ask Catherine Deneuve if she really has sex. It’s an irrelevant question.’

Romance Opens Fri 22 Oct. See review.

Rough cuts

Lights, camera, action. . .

STELLA SCREEN WEEKENDERS, the touring film season which combines new and cult films, arrives at Edinburgh’s Filmhouse Fri 29—Sun 31 Oct. Highlights of the Edinburgh tour stop include preview screenings of The Sixth Sense, the scariest horror movie since The Blair Witch Project, and the Luc Besson scripted action genre spoof, Taxi. Scene By Scene presenter Mark Cousins introduces the films of Terence Malick, including a new print of his debut, Badlands. On the cult side, there are welcome screenings of the Charlton Heston sci-fi classics, Planet Of The Apes and The Omega Man.

THE CAMEO cinema invites submissions for the inaugural Jim Poole Short Film Award, the scheme to support short filmmakers in Scotland run by Oasis Cinemas (owners of The Cameo). Submissions should be made by 14 January 2000 on VHS (35mm, 16mm or video formats), must have been completed in 1999, should be no longer than fifteen minutes duration and can be of any genre. The films will be judged by a jury comprising (but to be confirmed) Peter Mullan, Lynne Ramsay, Mark Cousins, The List’s editor Alan Morrison, Oasis's MD Clare Binns and programmer Sara Frain. The winning film will be screened at The Cameo in support of a main feature for a two week period, likewise at Oasis cinemas in London and the filmmaker will receive a £1000 cash prize. For further info phone The Cameo on 0131228 4141.

THE WICKER MAN moves a step closer to being re-released in its original version with a special event at the Falkirk Town Hall Cinema on Thu 21 Oct. Following a screening of Robin Hardy‘s cult 1973 horror movie, Alan Brown, author of ’Think What You're Doing: Inside The Wicker Man‘, will screen (on video) scenes previously seen only in America. Whether a complete version will ever make it to Britain's cinema screens is unclear: rumour has it that the original film stock was discarded by the film's producers and buried under the M3 motorway.

v 1.. 3 Man, woman, horse. primate: Planet Of The Apes