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Studio: The Criterion Collection
Year: 2001
Cast: AnaÔs Reboux, Roxane Mesquida, Libero de Rienzo, Arsinee Khanjian, Romain Goupil, Laura Betti
Director: Catherine Breillat
Release Date: June 10, 2011, 6:17 pm
Rating: Not Rated for (graphic violence, nudity, strong sexual situations)
Run Time: 01h:26m:37s

ďOk, I was a bit hard on you, but I have my reasons. Iíve just got a temper. Itís not your fault.Ē - Elena (Roxane Mesquida)

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Arguably Catherine Breillat's best work, this gripping, thought-provoking dramas might seem languid during some points. Rest assured that, despite this slowness, sticking around to the end is more than worth it.

Movie Grade: A

DVD Grade: A

To say that French filmmaker Catherine Breillat likes to push the proverbial envelope is an extreme understatement. Never one to shy from showing anything and everything on-screen, Breillat hasnít left much to our imagination in such fare as The Last Mistress, Romance, and Anatomy of Hell (which even starred actual porn star Rocco Siffredi). She isnít for cheap, exploitative thrills, though, as each and every image she puts up on the screen, regardless of how provocative, serves the greater good of her story and vision. 2001ís Fat Girl is arguably her best work, and also one of her most controversial. The subject matter is touchy enough, but throw in some explicit sex scenes, and one of the most shocking endings of all-time, and we have not only a masterpiece, but something that will have people talking for years to come. The Criterion Collection released a phenomenal DVD edition of Breillatís film in 2004, and now, their Blu-ray release is even better; pretty much par for the course for them though.

AnaÔs (AnaÔs Reboux) is an introverted young girl who also happens to be overweight. Often made fun of by other children, she tries to confide in her older, beautiful sister, Elena (Roxane Mesquida), whoís often too busy for her. The main reason AnaÔs is a nuisance to Elena, is that she crimps her style when it comes to meeting boys. This is never more evident than on a family vacation in the south of France, when Elena meets Fernando (Libero de Rienzo), and is instantly smitten. The girls have an intense discussion about love and sex, and later that night, Fernando sneaks into their room and climbs into bed with Elena, while AnaÔs pretends to sleep. She sees everything, though, and that experience, combined with the previous sisterly talk, changes her outlook on life, love, and the proper way (and who with) to lose her virginity.

It would be criminal to discuss this excellent piece of cinema without praising the work of AnaÔs Reboux. Only 13 at the time, this young girl was asked by the notoriously challenging Breillat to not only appear in scenes involving (both male and female) full-frontal nudity, and some extremely harrowing, possibly traumatic violence, but to also simulate an even more intimate occasion. Reboux persevered, despite the challenges, though, delivering one of the most memorable acting performances by a teenager. Unfortunately, she has yet to act in another film or even on television, since Fat Girl, but all accounts point to this being a simple decision to pursue another career, rather than a result of being so close to such edgy, controversial material.

Many of the best-written stories feature simple conversations that wind up sneaking up on an audience. At first, such talks seem inconsequential, but the ones in question linger long after a filmís end credits have finished rolling. One such conversation takes place early on in Fat Girl, and it turns out to not only be the driving force behind the filmís final reel. However, Breillatís incredible ending is not only a study in how to truly surprise an audience, but itís also extremely effective as a fulfilling ending that sticks in the audienceís psyche. This is a film that doesnít necessarily demand repeat viewings, but it is one of those rare experiences that becomes more and more fulfilling by revisiting it every few years or so. The most telling aspect of this is that this was my fourth time through and the final reel remains just as disturbing and thought-provoking as it did that first time I literally jumped out of my seat. Breillat rarely stumbles with her films, but hereís hoping something as impressive as Fat Girl is coming soon to her filmography.

The Criterion Collection has done another amazing job porting one of their previous DVD releases onto the Blu-ray format. For starters, theyíve given the film a brand-spanking-new video transfer, presenting it in a 1.86:1 aspect ratio, and in 1080p HD. Given the nature and low budget of the film, thereís no reason to expect reference-quality stuff here, but the overall look of things is a nice step above the already impressive DVD. The audio is a nice step up too, this time offered in the form of a lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track. The included booklet informs us that quite a bit of work was done to ensure the high quality of this track including the detailed removal of any defects present on previous tracks for the film. The extras are the same as those on Criterionís DVD, but they remain an interesting, albeit brief look at the making of the film, and round out this excellent package quite nicely.

Chuck Aliaga June 10, 2011, 6:17 pm