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  •  REVIEW: ANATOMY OF HELL

    Anatomy of Hell

    Dross "Anatomy"

    Catherine Breillat's "Anatomy of Hell" is an overintellectualized art film that's no great improvement over a porn film.

    By DAVID N. BUTTERWORTH
    Offoffoff.com

    Whether it's a porn film masquerading as Art or an Art film masquerading as porn, one thing's perfectly clear about the new French film "Anatomie de L'Enfer" ("Anatomy of Hell"). It's hell. And I don't just mean anatomically speaking.

      
    ANATOMY OF HELL
    Original title: Anatomie de l'enfer.
    Written and directed by: Catherine Breillat.
    Cast: Amira Casar, Rocco Siffredi, Alexandre Belin, Manuel Taglang, Jacques Monge, Claudio Carvalho, Carolina Lopes, Diego Rodrigues, Jočo Marques, Bruno Fernandes, Maria Edite Moreira, Maria Jočo Santos, Pauline Hunt, Catherine Breillat.
    Cinematography: Yorgos Arvanitis, Guillaume Schiffman.
    Edited by: Pascale Chavance.
    In French with English subtitles.

    Related links: Official site | All of David N. Butterworth's reviews at Rotten Tomatoes
    Sitting through this pretentious monument to bodily fluids for an interminable 80 minutes you have plenty of time to try and figure out what controversial writer/director Catherine Breillat ("Fat Girl") was attempting (when you're not perusing the tantalizing offer for a Heide beach towel on the back of your box of Jujubes, that is). Is it a serious sociological investigation into what makes gay men gay? Is it a graphic two-character study of a sexual, sadomasochistic relationship that's bound to end in tears? Or is it "a daring exploration into the nature of a fundamentally social and religious taboo: sexuality," as claims the film's publicity department?

    All I can think of is that Breillat thought it was about time Italian porn star Rocco Siffredi appeared in a movie without the words "Rocco Siffredi" and "butt" in the title.

    As it turns out, Siffredi is surprisingly decent in the film (relatively speaking). From an acting standpoint, he's called upon to look furtive and intense and serious and perplexed and noncommittal and inquisitive and smoldering and this he does with hardly a slip-up. And then there are the physical requirements of the role that conspire to show off his endowment (his French is halfway decent too).

    Anatomy of Hell  
    Siffredi plays "the man" into whom "the woman" (classical beauty Amira Casar) literally bumps during the film's opening scene. We're in a gay nightclub (shades of Gaspar Noé's "Irréversible") and the straight woman has just slit her wrists. "Why did you do that?" inquires Siffredi, who rushes into the bathroom to save her. "Because I'm a woman," explains Casar. That deep revelation outspoken, she offers to pay him to observe her as part of a theory that dictates that all men, whether they be gay or straight, are misogynists who abhor the female form in its purest state. Riiiiight.

    What follows is a four-night "erotic odyssey" in which Casar lounges around naked on a bed like an artist's model while Siffredi does the observing. Sometimes he takes a hands-off approach, seated and sipping on Jack Daniel's over ice while responding to her obtuse, intellectual (read: idiotic) comments with obtuse, intellectual (read: idiotic) comments of his own — there's a line about how a frog feels to be green that made me bust out laughing and startle my fellow audience member awake. And sometimes said observing is a little more interactive, occasionally utilizing such props as a lipstick, a garden rake, and cocktails-for-two (a menstrual Bloody Mary, one might call it).

    What's apparent throughout much of this, if nothing else (and there really is nothing else), is that the woman is a very heavy sleeper.

    The language and sexual situations are clearly designed to shock, perhaps offend, but they're mostly laughable. Interestingly enough, the film makes an initial disclaimer that a body double is used for Casar's "most intimate scenes" and that this should be viewed as an extension of her character. I suspect that Casar simply didn't want Breillat sticking her camera "down there."

    The South Koreans might be the world's luckiest people when it comes to "Anatomie de L'Enfer." They banned it.

    NOVEMBER 7, 2004
    OFFOFFOFF.COM • THE GUIDE TO ALTERNATIVE NEW YORK


    Reader comments on Anatomy of Hell:

  • Hell is Good   from Alexis, Nov 25, 2004
  • Re: Hell is Good   from patrick, May 20, 2005
  • u no what i be sayin dawg   from DaQuizzer, Mar 13, 2005
  • comment   from mike de leon, Feb 9, 2007
  • movie   from James, Jun 19, 2007
  • some problem   from Omary. kawaya, May 10, 2008
  • the movie   from haider, Mar 20, 2011

  • Post a comment on "Anatomy of Hell"