by Fabien Lemercier
- CANNES 2018: Antoine Desrosières’ radical comedy focuses on the youth of working-class neighbourhoods and the sexual violence of men against women
To see a cinematic object as unconventional as Sextape [+see also:
interview: Antoine Desrosières
film profile] in the temple of film lovers that is Cannes Film Festival – where Antoine Desrosières’ film has been unveiled in official selection in the Un Certain Regard section – may surprise many, annoy some and excite others, who will welcome the audacity of the director and those who selected the film. In any case, this radical comedy, which focuses a magnifying lens on the very current topic of manipulation and male oppression in the field of sexuality and in the era of social networks, won't leave anyone feeling indifferent.
The plot is simple. Two sisters and high school girls, Yasmina (Souad Arsane) and Rim (Inas Chanti), are going out with two best buds, Salim (Sidi Mejai) and Majid (Medhi Damhane). Rim and Majid (both very good-looking) are already seeing each other and Yasmina (less fortunate with her looks), who has never kissed anyone and often ponders the meaning of sexuality, is easily seduced ("a job interview in love") by Salim (who isn’t exactly a sex symbol either). They eat out at the Greek restaurant, get off at the pool and laugh about sex, while the boys stand out in particular due their noticeable cheap homophobia ("a guy who fucks another guy may as well fuck anything: animals, cars..."). When Rim goes on a school trip, Salim takes advantage of Yasmina's gullibility to push her into giving Majid a blow job, before revealing that he has filmed the whole thing and she must now do whatever he says over the next few months ("otherwise we'll send a video of you sucking a guy off in a car park 15 minutes from your house to everyone, you dirty whore!"). A trap that will encourage Yasmina to take the plunge, discover the power of freedom of speech, freedom of choice and the strength of feminism...
Brimming with unbridled slang (we're hit with a constant stream of "brother" and "fatso," from the girls, too) and hyper-inventive protagonists (who also participated in writing the film's dialogue), the film succeeds in challenging its thorny subject with a comedic tone. Often funny, it's also an astute portrait of current French working-class youth, with some potential over-acting (sometimes on the edge of hysteria) from actors who don’t often cross paths with this ultimately very real demographic. The director also creates a more timeless dimension to his denunciation of male behaviour, using several appropriate 1960s song that broach the subject. And even though the film is not perfect – some jokes work better than others and the cinematography is fairly simple – the film’s flaws mix well with its qualities, making Sextape a true socio-cinematographic curiosity that doesn’t bother with politeness, but steps right into the heart of the tumultuous debate on men and women.
(Translated from French)
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