Sex Is Comedy

cast: Anne Parillaud, Grégoire Colin, Roxane Mesquida, and Ashley Wanninger

director: Catherine Breillat

89 minutes (18) 2002
widescreen ratio 1.85:1
Artificial Eye DVD Region 2 retail
Also available to buy on video

RATING: 9/10
reviewed by Mike Philbin

So, you may have read in a scathing review in The Sunday Times’ Culture supplement that Catherine Breillat makes porno movies like Romance, and the BBFC should be disbanded for letting any of her films achieve a UK certification status. Well, you can fuck off right now because this is not the place for you. A director’s lot is a happy lot, right? Actors get paid so much; their job must be easy, right? Wrong…
The film fails straight away. Not ‘this’ film, the film they’re making. Sex Is Comedy is a film about filmmaking, inspired by À Ma Soeur! It highlights the socio-political debate and the technical/artistic compromises behind all great collaborative endeavours. It’s also about being able to think on your feet when it all turns to shit.
Here’s the start of this medium-come-character study:

It’s a dawn shoot on an Atlantic coast beach
You got a laborious lighting setup and crew wrangling
You got two young actors who are too fidgety to play the scene right
Interfering parents who won’t let their 18-year-old daughter skinny dip in the icy, grey sea
Then, after the director has finally corralled her starlets into the right frame of mind for the scene, it starts to lash down with rain

It has all gone wrong and continues to go wrong, even the fake penis they have made, won’t fit properly or stay in place – but this (and the ways round the problems) is the major appeal of the film.
Sex Is Comedy is a study in recalcitrant-actor management – the director learns to be rough with the boys, warm with the girls. She learns not to get too close. It plays like a bizarre love triangle as the three main personalities in the film play off each other in a vicious circle. She calls herself a last-minute director who is not always aware of the next step in her movie – “Fear of being obscene makes one obscene,” she says of her nakedness as a director. Unflinching examinations of the director come from her long-suffering crew. “Don’t think, drink,” she tells one of her young stars later in the film; “Do, go, be.” I paraphrase.
Everyone makes the only film they can and the delicious conclusion will tell all viewers that Catherine Breillat is one of the great directors of our time.
The DVD extras are the only letdown of the package as they merely offer a trailer and filmographies of Catherine Breillat, Anne Parillaud, Grégoire Colin and Roxane Mesquida.