Three Reasons: Catherine Breillat’s Brief Crossing (2001)

breve traversee
In case you hadn’t noticed Catherine Breillat is one of my favorite French auteurs. Brief Crossing (original title: Brève traversée) is one of her highest rated films on IMDb, but not many people have seen it or talk about it. However I’m sure that a lot of people would enjoy this film, because as we will see it has some interesting ideas about sex and sexual encounters, it’s very sexy and do I really need Three Reasons? Yes? Okay, more sex! There’s not a lot of nudity in this film apart from one rather lengthy sex scene, but one could say that the whole film is about sex, although there’s more than that. 

Brief Crossing is a film about two strangers, Thomas (Gilles Guillain) a French teenager and Alice (Sarah Pratt) a much older English woman who meet and fall in love for the night. There’s not a lot of plot, but the film explores a broad variety of themes related to masculine/feminin, sex, love and the pursuit of steamy fantasies. Once again the film feels like a very personal story for the director and although it seems rather preachy the viewer might be surprised by the ending of the story which kind of seems to negate every annoying or seemingly superficial discussion the characters may have had before.

Reason I: Breillat’s Sexy Aesthetic
breillat's sexy aesthetic
While cinematographer 
Eric Gautier only worked with Breillat on this one picture, there is a fil rouge in the way her films are photographed. It is a distinctly European aesthetic. It’s difficult to put into words, but has somewhat of a naturalistic approach which is at the same time realistic and beautiful. It’s Catherine Breillat’s use of light and primary colors that make her films look unmistakably like Catherine Breillat films. I am especially a fan of her use of the color blue, which she uses ever so effectively in this picture.

Breillat’s loves to shoot movies set during nighttime or in very dark locations like nightclubs and discos. There’s just something about the grainy picture quality (film truly is irreplaceable), the smoke of the cigarette, the shiny and colorful yet depressing and suffused lights of the club and the unusual, but beautiful and fascinating faces of her actors that add something unique to her films. Sometimes the picture is only a little bit out of focus, but in a way that you almost don’t notice and it just adds another layer of beauty, intrigue and mystique to her movies.

Reason II: The Sexual Tension
the sexual tension
The aforementioned sexy aesthetic contributes to the film’s sexual tension. From the start you can sense how the two just want to fuck each others brains out. However before that can happen social norms and general phoniness require that a whole predetermined script is followed to the tee. More than that it’s a game of seduction. The interesting thing is that as the viewer sees the film for the first time, not knowing how it will end, a lot of what the characters do seems authentic. One character in particular seems more sympathetic than the other, but then in a matter of seconds the whole scenario is inverted and you see their true face.

 The sex scene is steamy and sexy and everything you want it to be, but there’s a sense of now what? once Thomas has reached the orgasm. To that point the unpredictable ending, which changes everything, prevents the film from becoming just another generic entry in what’s an already tired and overdone sub genre. Even without that however the film’s fascinating dialogues and long takes help create an environment of irresistible charm. There are a lot of hormones flying and the chemistry between the two leads is palpable. It also helps of course that both actors are good-looking and you really want to see them getting it on.

Reason III: The Battle of the Sexes
the battle of the sexes
The whole time Alice and Thomas are talking, Alice is criticizing men for their shallow behavior and using up women like their own private sex toys. Alice compares a woman’s relationship with a man to that of a magician and her assistant. He gets all the glory, while she does all the hard work. He treats her like shit and she endures it just because of her romantic notions and fantasies of true love. Men have no sense for poetry, romance or genuine care for another person. In short all they want is to get into a woman’s pants and for that they’ll say or do anything.

This seemingly unilateral and feminist discourse throughout the film almost makes you believe that Breillat despises men. At the end of the film however it seems that Alice’s character behaves a lot like the typical men she described. This makes you question everything that happened and all of her clichéd monologues. It seems that she knows “men” so well, because she thinks like them. It’s unclear whether Alice is a disillusioned woman and became who she is because of her past experiences with men who were pigs or if she was always been like this, either way: She is just like them.

Those are my three reasons. What are yours?

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