Mini-Review: Sex is Comedy (2002) or Catherine Breillat’s 8½ About the Making of Fat Girl

sex is comedy (2002)
Jeanne (Anne Parillaud) is a French director shooting a film in Portugal. Her films seem to be strikingly similar to those of French auteur Catherine Breillat. She even likes to cast the same actress (Roxane Mesquida) and is interested in the same themes. Her newest movie is about a young woman’s first sexual experiences with a douchebag who’s just trying to get into her pants (Grégoire Colin). Jeanne is having a hard time shooting the film as her actors don’t seem to be comfortable with the sex scenes. Especially her lead actor is proving to be annoying and vain. But at the end of the day art must prevail (with or without fake penises). 

Catherine Breillat’s Sex is Comedy is a very personal film about the director’s experiences in the shooting of Fat Girl (2001)Fat Girl is in a lot of ways her own coming-of-age story, her first sexual experiences and her relationship with her bigger sister who was a lot prettier and popular than her growing up. In Sex is Comedy Breillat discusses her difficulties in making movies (and specifically Fat Girl). It’s interesting to note that both films star the gorgeous Roxane Mesquida. With this film Breillat describes her love-hate relationship with her actors, especially her male actors.

While many directors decided to make their own vanity projects referencing Federico Fellini’s masterpiece , this film is unique in that it’s from the perspective of a female director. What does it mean to be a woman and working in what’s still mainly a man’s world? What’s the relationship to male actors? How do they behave on set? How squeamish are they about shooting a sex scene? What are some of the challenges with female actors? Is it easier? I liked how Jeanne, who was essentially a prettier surrogate for Breillat, reverses the male and female roles in rehearsing the sex scenes.

To Breillat men are absolutely predictable when it comes to sex. They play it nice in the beginning to make sure that women trust them, but then they’re only interested in getting in their pants. Breillat’s male characters will get very crafty and won’t take no for an answer. If a young woman is trying to protect her virginity they’ll simply say that they’d be happy with anal sex, so it doesn’t count. “That’s what most girls do anyway” is a recurring line in Breillat’s oeuvre. She understands how a men’s mind works, but she’s much more intrigued by how a women reacts.

Overall, I liked Sex is Comedy quite a bit, however sometimes Breillat seems to be too caught up in getting her message across and forgets that not every viewer might be as interested in the filmmaking process as her. As a film enthusiast and a fan of the director I can appreciate her personal insights to her work ethic, but I can easily see how some casual viewer might find this film absolutely boring. This is definitely one of her best films, but I would advise to be a bit familiar with her work before checking it out. At least watch Fat Girl (original French title: À ma soeur!).

7.5 out of 10

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