Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|Fat Girl - Criterion Collection|
Actors: Anaïs Reboux, Roxane Mesquida, Libero De Rienzo, Arsinée Khanjian, Romain Goupil
Director: Catherine Breillat
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama
Twelve-year old Anaïs is fat. Her older sister, Eléna, is a teenage beauty. While on vacation with her parents, Anaïs tags along behind Eléna, exploring the dreary seaside town. Eléna meets Fernando, an Italian law student... more »
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Not your average rites-of-passage teen movie.
darragh o'donoghue | 01/28/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"When I first heard that the English title of Catherine Breillat's 'A ma soeur' (literally 'for my sister') was 'Fat Girl', I was shocked that such sexism and sizism could exist in such strangulatingly p.c. times, especially in the light of the director's uncompromising, though idiosyncratic feminism. But from the very first sequence, Anais' weight is foregrounded, as she devours a banana split at a cafe while her sister is being chatted up by an Italian student. The body is the focus of this film, its display, and the attempts to control it, whether by deciding how much you're going to eat, by seducing minors or by deciding to whom you'll offer your virginity. Like another recent French film, Patrice Chereau's 'Intimacy', Breillat focuses on sexuality in a way hostile to mainstream cinema. Unlike 'Intimacy', whose gauche attempts at realism destroyed its credibility, Breillat insists on formality and artifice, from the summer holiday setting, with its two heroines 'locked up' in a chalet that, with its guards, gates, bars, curfews seems like a high security prison; to the ritualistic manner in which characters negotiate sex; to Breillat's awesomely complicated filming apparatus. The film's coup-de-theatre is a lengthy scene in which Elena sneaks in her boyfriend to the bedroom she shares with a sister she assumes is asleep. Not only is the viewer faced with the problematics of staring at the naked, fetishised body of a minor, and the increasingly grotesque and hypocritical attempts of her lover to seduce her; not only is the framing unflinchingly static, with the odd, sinisterly creeping movement, and the tight compositions forcing the two lovers into an airless claustrophobia; but our voyeurism is shared by our knowledge of the mostly unseen gaze of the younger girl looking on. Though this is the longest and most rigorous example, the film is full of scenes like this, triangular groupings of characters inflicting or evading each others' surveillance, while the parents who have theoretically imposed a rigid discipline on the girls see nothing. Spatial relations draw attention to themselves, as do the symbolic resonances of the settings (chopped woods, dunes etc.). The filming is deliberately unshowy, often flat. Narrative proceeds by a looping pattern, the same characters shifting positions in similarly-set scenes. So rarefied and artificial is this milieu, that when reminders of the outside world intrude, such as financial worries, it is shocking. And this is where the film becomes especially brilliant. What seemed to have been a fascinating dramatisation of ideas culled from feminism and film theory, focusing on ideas of free will, choice, exploitation, truth, knowledge, appetite etc., the extraordinary last third reminds us that we don't always have a final say in everything we do. The mix of suspense and surprise, and the play on doubles, mirrors, sleeping and fairy tale motifs, is masterly."
Brilliant portrayal of adolescent female sexuality
K. Kramer-Romero | New York | 11/26/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"It upsets me that reviewers have focused on the issues of weight and female competition and jealousy that do exist in this film, but completely ignore the major point of this film. Breillat gives us a brutally honest portrayal of female "baptism" into sexuality. It is not pretty, or romantic, or even sensual (as the socially astute "fat girl" realizes). The older sister, whose bed is surrounded by issues of Cosmo, appropriately enough) is hyper-feminized, and believes that she needs to look as if she stepped off the pages of Cosmo to get and keep and please a man--the most important tasks a woman is given by our culture. Her younger sister is less accepting of these--in fact she repeatedly says that she wants to lose her virginity to someone she doesn't love (a fact consistenly ignored by reviewers in their reviews, and vital to understanding the ending and the distinction between the two sisters). The shocking ending is so significant in this regard--Breillat dares us to question the nature of female adolescent sexual experiences, and to blur the line between consensual and nonconsensual sex in the context of female adolescent sexual awakening. I believe that the consistent overemphasis on weight, (note the strange translation of A Ma Soeur to Fat Girl???) which certainly is an important underpinning of all that transpires in the film, is to the detriment of fostering open discussion of the issue of sexuality; I can only assume that this stems from an inability on the part of the public to get past the reality that adolescent females are in fact sexually active, do not have adequate and reliable resources and information to deal with newfound feelings and cultural expectations and norms, and face often traumatic circumstances as a result."
Another disturbing/engaging look at sexuality from Breillat
Steven Sprague | Newport Beach, CA | 01/27/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Anaïs is a plumb, unattractive 12-year-old girl who lives in a dream world, not unlike many girls her age, where one day she'll find true love, marry and live happily ever after. Her sister Elena is a beautiful 15 year old who has become very aware of her sexuality. For the most part, their self-obsessive mother and workaholic father are uninvolved in their lives and they are pretty much on their own. During a family vacation, which dad must abandon because of work, the girls meet a good looking Italian law student, Fernando, and Elena, literally reeking with wanton sexuality, arranges to meet the young man at their vacation house. Since Elena shares a room with Anaïs, the younger sister is sworn to secrecy. After Fernando arrives, we learn very quickly that he's been around and his objective is solely to score with this young girl, but confronted with the reality of sex, Elena is hesitant. She wants more than sex . . . perhaps she even shares her younger sisters illusions about love. Nevertheless, Fernando convinces her that she can please him sexually and it won't really count as sex. This scene along with the actual act the following night are difficult to watch, but more so for Anaïs. Besides the anger, jealousy and disillusionment, all of her notions of romantic love are being warped. Her dreams have disappeared and she's become numb. When the shocking violent end arrives, we should hardly be surprised by her reaction. Graphic and powerful stuff by controversial director Catherine Breillat."
Raw, disturbing, unsettling - sure to attract the mainstream
Joe Bowman | St. Louis | 12/06/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Mirroring territory that she ventured three years prior with 'Romance,' director Catherine Breillat delivers a film about sexual frustration and feminism. In 'Fat Girl,' she follows a young, overweight teenage girl and her babe 15-year-old older sister. The girls are shown as opposing characters: the older is beautiful and bossy, the younger quiet and reflective. When the older of the sisters meets an Italian college student, she begins to explore the boundaries of her own sexuality, with the younger sister onlooking. Shown without any sort of candy-coating or implication, 'Fat Girl,' like 'Romance,' is a raw, bold, and commendable film. But unlike 'Romance,' the shock and humility the female characters endure in the film does not seem over-the-top or ridiculous. 'Fat Girl' examines both sisterly bonds and the exploration of sexuality without seeming exploitive or manipulative; an excellent film."