QUICK SNAP: LIVE FROM CANNES
The late ultra-radical feminist Andrea Dworkin once wrote that sex is degrading for women. She would probably use Sextape as a particularly handy case study for her teachings. This is a film where oral sex is consistently utilised as a bargaining token and humiliation tool against women, based on the assumption that the act is demeaning for females and empowering for men. Dworkin would also hate the film.
At first, this movie comes across as a denunciation of a very serious problem, specially for young females: revenge porn. Just three days ago, the Guardian exposed that many teenage girls and women contemplate suicide once they fall prey the practice. The stigma is just too heavy to carry. In Sextape, the young Yasmina hesitantly consents to giving her sister’s boyfriend Majid (Mehdi Mahmane) a blow job. Her very own boyfriend Salim (Sidi Mejai) tricked Yasmina into doing it, and he now uses the smartphone footage (which was captured without her consent) as a blackmail token. He forces her to give him fellatio ad hoc and ad infinitum (a bit like in a eat-as-much-as-you-can restaurant, he explains). The facts that all the characters are of Arabic origins exacerbates the macho attitude, with homosexuality being perceived as the ultimate no-go and the expectation that women should please their husbands being far more prominent.
The first issue I have with this film is that the dialogue becomes incredibly very repetitive, despite being created spontaneously after months of workshops. The incessant talk about blow jobs gets annoying and unnerving. But that’s petty teenage drivel, and I could live with that. The biggest problem with Sextape is that the director finds humour in situations that never be laughed at. Yasmina is raped over and over again every time she gives her boyfriend a job because she is doing it against her will. There’s absolutely nothing funny in that, or in the revenge that Yasmina exacts on her partner. I’m not a huge fan of the #MeToo movement, and far more inclined to agree with the 100 French women who signed the manifesto in favour “of the freedom to hit on women”. And even I found this film a little insulting towards women (and gay men).
I don’t want to give away any spoilers and the film ending, but you might be able to work it out yourself given the film title in French. “À genoux les gars” translates as “On your knees, lads”. This is one of the most predictable and regrettable film endings I have ever seen, heady with machismo and homophobia. And, in some ways, complacent with abuse. Ultimately, Sextape infantilises rape. Not quite the right thing to do, you know?
Sextape has just premiered at the Un Certain Regard section of the 71st Cannes International Film Festival taking place right now.