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June 16, 2012

Movie Review: Anatomy Of Hell (2004)

There are few filmmakers that I respect as much as John Waters. Waters has made a career of shocking people and when he refers to another movie as being "shocking", you have to take it seriously. The Pope of Trash is quoted on the back of the DVD for Catherine Breillat's, Anatomy Of Hell as saying " That's one effed-up film". Sold!! Breillat is no stranger to the tactic of evoking a response out of the audiences for her films. The director's films, Romance and Fat Girl pull no punches - so what does that leave in store for Anatomy of Hell, starring porn-king Rocco Sifferedi and Amira Casar? Can she possibly top either of those films?

Buy Anatomy Of Hell on DVD!

Based on the novel Pornocratie, Anatomy of Hell follows the relationship between a curious young woman (Amira Casar) who meets up with a stranger (Rocco Siffredi) at a nightclub. After fellating Rocco's massive junk in the parking lot of a club, she gives this mystery man an offer to come back to her house by the sea for four nights. What’s this lady thinking? Rocco’s destroyed more ass than Wal-Mart generic brand toilet paper. She’s definitely daring, if not out of her mind.

Breillat really takes some serious risks with Anatomy of Hell. Sure the content can be extremely unsettling but it’s the fact that Anatomy Of Hell is essentially a one-location story, with only really two characters (Siffredi and Casar) that make up the sparse cast. Neither Siffredi nor Casar are very seasoned actors. Siffredi especially, with much of his experience in front of the camera being in hardcore porno, is the one to watch. What they do portray in their characters is believable enough and not entirely foreign to either. Anatomy Of Hell's script probably comes somewhat natural to Siffredi as he does get to do, what he’s done for over 20 years, screw on camera. If you’re expecting something erotic in Anatomy of Hell – steer clear of this feature. Breillat wants you to be as uncomfortable with the material as possible.

Aside from the opening in a French disco that introduces our two haunted characters and a couple immensely disturbing flashback sequences, Anatomy of Hell really doesn’t veer away from the bedroom, where the majority of the film takes place. These flashback sequences by “Man” and “Woman” really give you a sense of both personas. Man’s flashback consists of a little boy stomping and crushing a baby bird. This scene appears real and is sure to make anybody who has a weakness for small animals getting killed on camera (like myself), turn your head in revulsion. Woman's flashback is as jaw-dropping, but I'm going to leave that out of this review.

The sexual experimentation and exploration of Woman that Man is payed to take part in, is really the meat (no pun intended) of the narrative. Some of these very fascinating and at the same time positively sickening acts that Man participates in seem to attempt to top the last: Man uses Woman’s vaginal fluid as hair-gel, lipstick is put around the anus and vagina of Woman and finally we get to witness newer uses of menstrual fluid. Did I also mention this isn’t for kids?

Tartan Video has included an interview with director, Catherine Breillat, a theatrical trailer and a photo gallery. The interview is solid. Breillat answers many of the questions viewers may have about the story. Breillat relates Man and Woman to almost an Adam and Eve type. She also goes into detail about how both men a woman look at sex - beyond the obvious reasons. Anatomy of Hell is presented anamorphic and looks very good clarity wise. The few exterior night scenes in the film could be a bit sharper but overall it’s a nice presentation.

Anatomy of Hell isn't going to be for all tastes but you have to give Breillat credit, as the film does exactly what it was intended to do - make sex unsettling and cause us to question aspects of sex we don't normally . It isn't even so much the imagery that makes Anatomy Of Hell so memorable, it's the dialogue that evokes just as much effect on the viewer. While not a great film, Anatomy of Hell is entertaining enough and an experience I certainly won't forget.