It's hard to imagine Brad and Jennifer starring in a bloody film with a horrifying 10-minute rape scene. But that's exactly the risk that France's most popular screen couple, Monica Bellucci (''Maléna'') and husband Vincent Cassel (''Birthday Girl''), took for director Gaspar Noé in ''Irréversible'' -- a release due to hit theaters in March that has so far polarized audiences at Cannes, Toronto, and Sundance. ''In France, it's not weird that they wanted to do this,'' insists Noé, who says he'd previously discussed making an even more explicit picture with the actors.
The film, which, like ''Memento,'' unfolds in reverse time, is already stirring up plenty of watch-it-on-an-empty-stomach buzz. ''We never thought it would be commercial,'' says Noé. ''I just wanted to make a movie that could be banned!'' His next project -- about what he calls ''the pleasure of doing drugs'' -- just might do the trick. (Additional reporting by Adam B. Vary)