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DaltonMaltz

Episode 144 - Fat Girl (w/ Ruben Östlund)

Episode 144 - Fat Girl (w/ Ruben Östlund)  

17 members have voted

  1. 1. Should "Fat Girl" enter The Canon?

    • Yes
      8
    • No
      9


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Ruben Östlund, director of Best Foreign Language Film nominee “The Square” joins Amy this week to discuss the 2001 French drama “Fat Girl.” They talk about the controversy surrounding the film’s title and its sexual themes, the relationship between the characters of Anais and Elena, and shocking ending before making their final cases.

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So I heard a lot of arguments for why this is an interesting movie with an interesting philosophy (and I agree). Not sure I heard many arguments for why it's Canon. Anybody on the forums got anything more?

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I'm tempted to vote YES just because of the impact this film made on me when I first saw it. I had heard rumblings from Cannes that year about how incredibly shocking and disturbing it was, which made me question whether or not I wanted to subject myself to it. I was later vaguely told that the shocking moment that so many people referred to was a rape, which I thought I could handle seeing. While watching the scenes of borderline consensual seduction of the older sister in her bedroom, I believed that this was the incredibly upsetting thing that people had been talking about. After all, I don't think I had yet seen a film to depict the crude and desperate guilt laid on a young girl in order to persuade her to go ever further sexually, in quite such a realistic manner and certainly not from the girl's point of view. I do generally prefer WELCOME TO THE DOLLHOUSE as a film, but I feel like that film and FAT GIRL share some tonal connections, but really just between Dawn and Anaïs, who are both young, awkward, and unsure how or if sex will enter their lives, even while being eager to discover anything one can about it to satisfy new and changing emotions. What DOLLHOUSE never gets around to covering is what it's like to suddenly be a desirable sexual being when you still might not be ready. And the scenes with Elena and Fernando in FAT GIRL are in many ways more difficult to watch than more violent and violating rape scenes I've seen depicted in film, only because these are so familiar as moments of pressure for something that one might desire and fear at the same time. Having the audience and Anaïs be given the same vantage point of these moments feels so constricting, as one of us can't really do anything, while the other might be making a conscious choice to not say anything to disrupt it.

 

But of course, these scenes weren't what people were alluding to when they mentioned there was a shocking rape in the film. The build up to the finale is masterfully done. The shots from the looming trucks, surrounding and towering over the family's car are such ominous and frightening images to go alongside these three women who have been feeling small and dwarfed by overbearing men in the film. Even without anticipating what is to come, it's hard not to be filled with dread. When I first saw the moment when the man breaks the windshield with an ax, and everything that followed, I wondered and still somewhat wonder if it's a literal moment that was really happening. After all, in many horrible ways, this is Anaïs' fantasy. Her sister is instantly discarded and completely ignored, something that has probably never happened in her life. Her mother too merely attacked and dismissed. This man wants Anaïs, and she has spent so much of the film longing to be desired. Now there's no way that this is the way she was hoping those desires would be fulfilled, but perhaps as a plain and overweight girl, she feels that somehow she deserves this and that it's is the only way anyone would ever settle for her. Even without a violent rape, I know it's a very common feeling among those who feel shame and self loathing that they will never find romance in an idealized way and so they begin to dial back their fantasies to find something more realistic and tangible. Is this realistic and realism? I don't know. But it packs a helluva punch. I've enjoyed some of Catherine Breillat's other films, such as SEX IS COMEDY, BLUEBEARD, and THE SLEEPING BEAUTY, but I don't know if she could top FAT GIRL as one of the most intense and upsetting films I've ever seen. Revisiting it again this week after so many years wasn't any easier. This isn't what I'd call a favorite film of mine, one that I'd like to revisit many times, or even one that I feel I could confidently recommend that people see as an essential film, but I'm going to vote YES because I think it's a pretty powerful and serious example of teenage girls' experience on film, and that if one can stomach it, they should absolutely see it for themselves.

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I'm glad I watched this. I appreciated the insight into the life and development of young women. The ending did shock me. That said, I've been drifting to the preference of a more narrow Canon lately. It's another very good but not great nominee for me. I'm a soft no.

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I also came down as a soft no. Well-made, interesting movie. Is it ESSENTIAL? I wouldn't say so.

 

I've commented before (mostly during the month of horror movies) that I have a light objection to the idea that just because a movie made you FEEL something, that makes it good. Fat Girl clearly intends to shock and/or disgust the audience with its ending. On the other hand, I'm not sure this ending is actually necessary or the most effective way for the film to make its point about societal misogyny and its effect on the development of young women (to my mind, the quieter scenes during the bulk of the movie do a better job of that). I see where the filmmaker is coming from with this ending, but on some level it feels a bit like shock value for shock value's sake.

 

Again, that doesn't mean the movie is bad. I do like it. But it falls a bit short of Canon status for me.

 

EDIT: I'm also aware of the "bad look" of having only (I think) male viewers commenting on this film so far, so I'd love to hear some women's voices.

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I knew this episode wasn't going to draw a ton of votes, but I'm still a bit disappointed that so few people were able to check this film out, judging by the vote numbers so far.

 

I agree with sycasey 2.0 that it would have been nice to hear a more fully-fleshed argument for why this particular movie deserves to be in the Canon, as opposed to other films that cover similar material. For example, why should this be in Canon before Welcome to the Dollhouse?

 

That said, I'm still voting yes. I think Fat Girl (I agree with Ruben that "For My Sister" is a much better title) portrays a very realistic seeming relationship between these siblings, and I really enjoyed both of their performances. I thought the ending worked well to establish Breillat's thesis about the complicated nature of the emotional violence that can accompany sex, particularly at that age.

 

I don't know if other films did it better, but there's enough here that I'm okay voting yes.

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This film is notorious enough that I'd already had the out-of-nowhere ending spoiled years ago, but it still had quite an impact. I know people are complaining that Solondz' "Welcome to the Dollhouse" isn't in yet, but it's not the fault of this film that the episode hasn't been released (I hope some day it is). Personally, I preferred this. Solondz mostly just seems to like tormenting his characters because he finds it amusing, and while he's good at it, I think the Coens have done a better job of creating universes comically aligned against characters. Breillat seems more like Lars von Trier, putting a very distinctive & uncomfortable viewpoint on screen. I know we've got one of his in the Canon, but this is hardly a clone of Antichrist. I think nobody but Breillat could make this, and there's no other film you could see to substitute for it. I'm willing to say anyone with the fortitude to see challenging films should see this one.

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