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MGM Studios DVD presents
"An intimate scene...a 'nude scene' as they say (I hate that expression!), always frightens them a lot more, even though, paradoxically, it's what made them want to do the film!"
DVD ReviewEver get into a conversation with cinematic-minded friends about the art of directing? How much fun it must be to be in a position in which you have a cute little chair with your name on the back, telling people what to do? Oh yeah, maybe back in the days when the man sitting next to the camera wore argyle sweatervests supplementing button-up, shirts only standing up between takes to bark orders at actors and yell "roll 'em!" through a megaphone (for you 20-somethings out there who find it hard to imagine such a scenario, just picture that Ty guy from Extreme Makeover: Home Edition in the same position with his bullhorn; then it'll all make sense, I promise).
For those who know better, the duties of directing go much deeper than overblown, stereotypical images portrayed more for comedic effect in movies. Still, those of us who thrive on challenges can't help but fantasize about how thrilling being in the hot seat must be. But after seeing behind-the-scenes in Sex Is Comedy, I can hear the sounds of dream bubbles bursting faster than dot.com businesses of the late 1990s.
Loosely based on the experiences of noted French director Catherine Breillat, Sex takes its title via a twist on the time honored saying "dying is easy, comedy is hard." In her case, the act of what follows foreplay is challenging—at least it is for Jeanne (Anne Parrilaud), the principal in charge of motivating her two young leads into the realm of believability for a very pivotal love scene to mark the climax of her current project. Adding to the woes on a chemistry-deprived set: the male lead (Gregoire Colin) is certified jerk material and while his fictional partner (Roxanne Mesquida) pouts a lot and is no great shakes as an actress, who can blame her for being moody when she has to lock lips (and beyond) with a peer who demeans her abilities? So, the task of trying to mold these two opposites into a dream team falls into Jeanne's hands, and it's more complex than simply belittling an actor in front of a crew or slapping a ruler across their outstretched hands. Psychology, manipulation, and good old-fashioned ego stroking have to be taken out of a helmer's bag of tricks, not just for the good of a project, but to keep them from completely losing their marbles, and her Maalox bottle full.
If this sounds like a mighty thin premise for a 94-minute film to base its foundation on, you're partially right. Directing is hard work to be sure, but the key problem I had with Sex Is Comedy is that save for a few much needed doses of comic relief (including a priceless bit with Colin attempting to get comfortable with an uncomfortable prosthetic penis), the mood is so decidedly downcast and gloomy that it's hard to muster much in the way of empathy for Parrilaud's character. In fact, I found the delightful interchanges between Jeanne and her loyal first assistant, Leo (Ashely Wanninger), far more satisfying than any of the scenes involving Colin and Mesquida attempting to get their mutual mojos in gear. But amidst the lethargic pace are some compelling moments to be had, especially in a couple of great scenes in which Jeanne dispenses some tart, biting thoughts on her profession, and of course, the much anticipated master take of her Romeo and Juliet getting horizontal to her satisfaction with the added depth of a surprisingly sweet, emotional coda that's completely unexpected.
Rating for Style: C+
Rating for Substance: C+
Image Transfer Review: Though far from stellar with sharpness issues and occasional haloing, this is a fairly good transfer that captures Laurent Machuel's cinematography quite well, especially in the way it delivers the muted colors and strong black levels.
Image Transfer Grade: B
Audio Transfer Review: With a soundtrack that probably totals less of a running time than The Letter by the Box Tops, this stereo mix probably could have passed for mono if not for stray ambient sounds that are just barely discernable in the left and right speakers. What's left but dialogue, which is firmly planted up front, very well recorded and understandable (particularly if you're French, but you know what I mean).
Audio Transfer Grade: B
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Scene Access with 16 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
7 Other Trailer(s) featuring When Will I Be Loved, Kitchen Stories, Code 46, Confessions of an American Girl, The So-Called Disaster, First Person/Errol Morris, MGM Means Great Movies Teaser
Packaging: Keep Case
Extras Review: Disappointingly featureless (a commentary from Breillat would have been fascinating), but the disc manages to escape grade D and below status with a healthy assortment of varied trailers from the most current picks of MGM's artsy litter.
Extras Grade: C-
Final CommentsSlowly paced and drearier than a cloud filled winter's day, Catherine Breillat's Sex Is Comedy mostly comes off as a big disappointment from the director of the far more striking Fat Girl.
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