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Baise-Moi review

Fuelled by the French state's reactionary panic (it was effectively banned), Baise-Moi has generated a media hoo-hah as extreme as its content. Outlawed in Canada. Unrated in the US. Depending who you read, it's an abomination, a disgrace, unwatchable, the usual...

The big question, then: porn masquerading as art or art masquerading as porn? It's definitely the latter. A head-on collision between I Spit On Your Grave and Natural Born Killers, the catalyst is cruel and simple. The victim of a gang-rape, Manu (Raffaëla Anderson) staggers into battered hooker Nadine (Karen Lancaume). It's nihilism at first sight. Marginalised by men, wrecked by society, the duo embark on an indiscriminate killing spree. It's a journey not of woozy self-discovery but of graphic self-destruction.

Adapting her own novel, director Virginie Despentes crafts a punky, doomy thrashabout that soars above its exploitation roots with resonant, gritty visuals, guerilla pluck and an unflinching focus on its cast's wasted expressions. Kudos too to its porn star leads - Lancaume and Anderson invest their roles with a quality best described as naked oblivion. Anderson's bratty fury swerves towards comic strip, but Lancaume is a revelation, all blaze and strut and damage.

As a female empowerment fantasy, Baise-Moi works brilliantly. Its protagonists are not victimised flotsam but savage, capable women who whisk an oppressive patriarchy's weapons from its fists and take aim. As for the unsimulated sex (lensed by porn director Coralie Trinh), the rape is uncompromising; the rest is dispassionate rutting. Erotic it ain't, but that's the point. Some will be desensitised and others shocked by Baise-Moi`s carnival of brutalities. But there's no denying it's also exhilarating and junky. Hear it roar.

Not misogynistic. Just misanthropic and misunderstood. A nod to grubbier times ('80s exploitation), Baise-Moi is a bullet in the head for complacency. Be frayed. Be very frayed.

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