No one takes the fun out of sex like Catherine Breillat. The French director of Romance, Fat Girl, and Sex Is Comedy can find the persecution and despair in any act that involves women, men, and flesh; her grasp of pleasure isn’t quite so cultivated. Anatomy of Hell, which is Breillat’s most graphic but joyless work yet, opens with a title informing us that since this is fiction, a body double was used to reveal the most intimate parts of her heroine (played by Amira Casar). Fair enough, but why is the film’s other lead performer, Rocco Siffredi, represented by his own bulging manhood? Talk about a double standard!
Siffredi plays a gay stud who rescues Casar after a suicide attempt and is invited by her to confront his ignorance and numbness toward women. She does this by ordering him to study, and interact with, her exposed body. Breillat deconstructs sex into a frigid myth of Male as Violator, but it takes an oddly deluded artist to use a gay man’s erotic indifference to women as the apotheosis of masculine insensitivity. Anatomy of Hell is homophobic, sex-phobic, maybe even human-phobic.