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The Great Breillat: FAT GIRL

Catherine Breillat 2001 drama Fat Girl also titled À ma sœur! is the story of two sisters Anaïs played by (Anaïs Reboux) and Elena (Roxane Mesquida) spending the summer with their parents at a seaside house in France. The two wander off to a café in town and meet an Italian law student Fernando (Libero De Rienzo) where he’s immediately taken with Elena while her sister Anaïs orders a banana split. Elena develops a curious yet sexual relationship with Fernando who pressures her to sleep with him through numerous ways eventually convincing her into having anal sex with him.

There’s a simple innate yet prominent introspective moment where we witness the deflowering of innocence from the perspective of Anaïs, who can do nothing but peek despairingly between the gaps of her fingers. It’s a cringe worthy scene that involves minimal camera movement as Breillat is deliberately giving us this sense of tranquility in the manipulation of a naïve teenage girl. It’s as intrinsic as it is horrifying when we see reality meld into a life changing occurrence. When the camera shifts focus on Anaïs, we see her hiding behind her hands vilifying the discomfort one feels and what effectively enhances that sentiment is the diegetic sounds of Elena and Fernando’s naked dance in an integration of pain and elation. It’s a brutal accumulating the stark contrast between male and female orgasms underlining a commonality of truth. It also confirms horny males will say whatever to get you in bed with them which is synchronous as a socially recognized norm that blurs the lines between consensual and nonconsensual sex.

Then there’s the aftermath of sex and the slew of emotions that whirl in like a perfect storm of regret and confusion. Elena sobs because her body’s in a state of shock as the feeling of shame hits her like a moment of clarity gone badly. This is furthered by Fernando’s inability to console her (I’m sure by the lack of circulation in his brain) where he says, “Don’t you see you gave me pleasure?” Which nestles in that “little” nugget of thought that sex is catered for men’s pleasure only. What are we teaching young girls again? Does anyone see anything wrong with this message? Shouldn’t there be some, oh I don’t know, actual equality in having sex? Now I know I can’t speak for everyone and it varies for different people based on personal preference, but to the selfish people come on really? Orgasms for all man and woman kind!

As this film dances with sexual awakening there’s also the fundamental notion of boldness because Breillat facilitates a philosophical view simply using the travesties of sex. She goes where no one dares to go exposing all the dark underbelly of what sex actually is instead of hyping it up like some extravagant porn fantasy which is ironically funny as she’s hailed as the “auteur of porn”. But, I think Breillat is more than that, she’s a pioneer, a feminist, who’s fearless in executing her vision as a director highlighting her complex talent that is in her unpredictability when it comes to the twists she hurls at you in the ending of her films. This ending no less has that similar feel such as Truffaut’s final shot in The 400 Blows. That freeze frame says it all! The camera freezes on the face of Anaïs and the iciness in her eyes is tantalizing. The violence that pursues in the ending of Fat Girl is so brutal and controversial I can’t help but feel Breillat is secretly fluttering her eyelashes insinuating or perhaps challenging us that this is a philosophical truth when it comes to discarding women after sex. Its infuriating yet visually phenomenal. I’ve only seen three of her films and every time I still come away with an obscure smile of surprise.


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