FRENCH EXTREME | Offscreen
On the eve of the third millennium, cinema seemed liberated from all censorship, with seemingly no limits regarding the representation of bodies and sexuality. Films by Catherine Breillat or Lars Von Trier emerged, among others, where pornography and auteur cinema rubbed shoulders... until Baise-moi, a brutal uppercut co-directed by former porn star Coralie Trinh Thi and writer Virginie Despentes, an adaptation of Despentes' first novel. This raw punk film unapologetically blended rape-and-revenge and pornography. The premiere in Locarno caused a scandal, and the same happened upon its release in France, where the film was banned for viewers under 18 after a few days. This was also the case in Belgium. The resurgence of the ban for under-18s, due to the efforts of a traditionalist Catholic association, dealt a harsh blow to the film (and others that would follow). Even though the film was not entirely banned, it made a normal distribution of the film impossible. Today, the controversy is far behind us, high time to keep a level head and rediscover the film!
In Martyrs by Pascal Laugier, we leave the realm of pornography and enter the domain of torture porn, a term that groups together several films from the gore genre of the 2000s, such as Saw and Hostel. The opposite of what happened to Baise-moi occurred with this film. Initially, it was banned for under-18s, and later for under-16s. This actually saved the commercial life of the film, as the ban for under-18s is a kind of economic censorship, limiting the number of copies to a handful, which is detrimental to the potential and visibility of a film. Martyrs remains the pinnacle of the French Frights, a wave of French extreme genre films like Frontière(s), À l’intérieur, and Haute tension.