Anatomy of hell

When Japanese writer-director Nagisa Oshima’ s In The Realm of the Senses opened in 1976, the unrated, explicit drama played at the now defunct Mann Theaters in the Esplanade. Even though the film played in the last of three theaters, I always wondered what would have happened if some unsuspecting parent got confused. Imagine trying to explain why a subservient Japanese woman would fellate an older man, cut off his manhood, and then carry it around as she wandered the countryside.

While I wasn’t shocked by what I saw, I wondered what it would take to shock me. I wasn’t shocked when Divine ate poodle poop in John Waters’ Pink Flamingos, and I wasn’t offended by director Pier Paolo Pasolini’s vulgar examination of fascism Salo: 120 Days of Sodom, a virtual smorgasbord of decadent behavior.

I’m not a prude, and I absolutely refuse to condemn anything, but writer-director Catherine Breillat’s Anatomy of Hell almost sent me into therapy. The controversial French director of Romance and Fat Girl likes to push the envelope, but all she achieves with Anatomy of Hell are painful paper cuts. Based on her own novel Pornocratie, Breillat continues her crusade that women and men exist only to use and abuse each other.

To prove her argument, she develops an extremely unpleasant set of circumstances guaranteed to make even the most brave viewer question their moral compass. A rather bland Amira Casar stars as a mysterious woman, who after trying to commit suicide in the bathroom of a gay disco (she’s lost in a sea of men she can’t have, get it?), agrees to pay a handsome stranger to watch her where she’s unwatchable. No, it’s not a Zen riddle, but an excuse for the filmmaker to exploit and humiliate her actors all in the name of art.

As the woman lays naked on a bed and spouts pretentious French dialogue, the man gazes at her, wondering what she expects him to take away from the experience. Screw that, it’s what he brings to the party that will make your stomach turn. Garden rakes, rocks, lipstick, feminine hygiene products, and one of the nastiest expressions of lovemaking that left me bewildered and gasping for air. All I kept thinking was thank goodness I was alone and not stuck inside a film festival theater where I would have to share my uneasiness.

I’m all for movies that challenge an audience, but when you throw crap at the screen, don’t tell me it doesn’t stink. Don’t go looking for Anatomy of Hell at a local theater. You can only experience it on DVD. (Unrated/Tartan Video)

The Woman Inside


Amira Casar, Rocco Sifferdi. Directed by Catherine Breillat. Unrated. 80 Minutes.


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