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Baise Moi, Plain Smut and Violence?

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Baise Moi, Plain Smut and Violence? Perverts and censors - they have more in common than you think.

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Baise MoiFor the moral high-grounders among us the decisions to ban the movie Baise Moi both in New Zealand and Australia must seem like a victory for all that is good in the world.

Certainly Baise Moi is pornographic in many aspects.

There's real-time sex with nothing left to the imagination and plenty of violence. But I'm wondering if the outrage and subsequent success of the banning bid by the New Zealand Society for the Promotion of Community Standards (SPCS) is because Baise Moi is far more than a smutty, violent film? Sure there are a couple of graphic rape scenes but pretty soon the victims become the aggressors and the tables are turned.

Perhaps it's the table turning that has outraged the moral rightists more than the sex? Because put up against a range of other violent, sex laden films Baise Moi is no worse that many that are freely available. Except that this time it's the women who seek revenge. And the men that get their comeuppance.

Or perhaps our moral guardians just wanted the film banned to protect us all from the twisted few who might find it titillating and attempt to copy it's murderous premise “ but remind me “ when exactly was the last time a woman went on a random homicidal rampage? But don't think I'm promoting this movie. I'm not.

It made me sick. But it also made me think. And that is the point of a film like Baise Moi and doubly the point of screening it at a festival rather than as a general release. The whole purpose of a festival, even one as often outlandish as Becks Incredible Film Festival, is to screen challenging films, to make us think, to shift our perspectives and to sometimes create that sense of inner horror that causes us to redefine our approach and thought on certain subjects. And Baise-Moi is one of those films.

It's exigent and repulsive, a brutal, savage and disturbing film.

It's not, as the promotional blurb would have us believe, a simple tale of two girls staying alive in a world infested with raping men. And the producers are being disingenuous when they state the protagonists “ I refuse to call them heroines - are not bad girls. They are. They're mean and shallow and vicious and murderous.

The film's PR goes on to insist we should all understand and feel kinship toward the lead characters because they are beyond judgment. But while the producers may believe the characters portrayed are beyond judgment the film certainly isn't.

Mine and yours; if you could only get to see it. And that's the point our moral guardians seem to have missed.

The very act of choosing to view or not view a movie of this sort is the act of being adult. We hear constantly we are living in a time of declining moral standards.

But groups like the SPCS reduce our opportunities to grow moral muscles by taking the decisions for us. By default the banning becomes the only critique and by definition casts the film in a purely sexual light.

It's this very point that seems to elude those who would protect the public from itself.

And by removing it from the restricted viewing of a festival you remove the opportunity to assess, to critique, to lambaste or support and we are all denied the opportunity to view this segment of human potential gone severely askew. In the end the message the banning sends is not that Baise Moi is a bad film but that we, the potential audience are incapable of using personal discretion.

That, having chosen to view a restricted screening plastered with content warning notices, we are not savvy enough to come away with a wider perspective and a deeper understanding of the capacity for depravity that lurks in the human soul.

The High Court's interim decision to uphold SPCS complaint, reversing the decision of the Film and Literature Board of Review is in fact limiting all of us to the narrow worlds occupied by both the SPCS and the film-makers themselves, shrinking our opportunity to make personal moral decisions to the narrow paradigms that both these groups occupy.

Personally I think the value of Baise Moi is in the personal development that comes from confrontation, from being affected and challenged, from being horrified and repulsed and from reconsidering the consequences of our own roles and actions in society.

And what of the fear that Baise Moi might encourage that tiny minority who may find sexual gratification in this and other film festival fare - Surprisingly, the perverts with their narrow band of understanding and their inability to see beyond the depictions of sex and violence to the deeper story within have a lot in common with the members of the Society for the Protection of Community Standards.

  © Barbara Sumner Burstyn May 2002.

P.O.V. with Barbara Sumner Burstyn @

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Send your comments to: Barb Sumner Burstyn.

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