"Following the publication of her first novel, L'homme facile, in 1968, a libertine novel (banned to readers under the age of 18) that caused a sensation through the boldness of its subject and the crudeness of its vocabulary, Catherine Breillat has continued to work as a writer, filmmaker and screenwriter. Between 1968 and 1975, she published three novels and a stage play in alexandrine verse Les Vêtements de mer (1971). She has written numerous screenplays in collaboration with various filmmakers: Liliana Cavani (La Pelle), Federico Fellini (E la nave va), Maurice Pialat (Police), Christine Pascal (Zanzibar).
She directed her first film, Une vraie jeune fille, in 1976, based on her own novel Le Soupirail (1974). A first film of a great uniqueness, shot with very limited means and in the first person, tackling the issue of the representation of sex on screen frankly and without affection. A sensual, violent, angry and personal point of view of the fear of a teenager discovering her body and the abyss of sex. A free, innovative and experimental film close to the US underground school. In 1979, she directed Tapage nocturne, based on her novel of the same name. A crude film, of an intense, moon-like beauty, a sexual film with a series of cutting-edge scenes on carnal relationships, a tale of love and desire in their raw state, the story of the implacable and destructive passion of a young woman, Solange, played by Dominique Laffin, to whom Catherine Breillat gave her best role ever. The film was banned to anyone under 18 and its failure in theatres distanced the filmmaker from film sets.
She would have to wait eight years, expending relentless energy and willpower before being able to shoot another film, in 1987, 36 Fillette, having first to write a novel of the subject to convince the members of the advance box-office grant committee who were panicked by the audacity of the subject: the hard-core sexual quest of a 14-year-old girl, her search for a man, fuelled by her obsession with losing her virginity. A gruelling and sumptuous film in which the two main actors, Delphine Zentout (Lili, stubborn and distraught) and Etienne Chicot (very physical as a slightly ridiculous macho) are remarkable.
In 1991, she directed Sale comme un ange in which she tackled the thriller genre. Catherine Breillat brilliantly shows this dark and seedy world making the film a pitiless, cruel and lucid acid test on the question of carnal desire, on the brutality of desire even. The story of a cold and dull puritanical woman, Barbara (Lio, excellent) who is transformed by the desire of a hard and worn-out man, the cop, Georges Deblache (Claude Brasseur, dogged and aged). Desire, pleasure and the inherent guilt sublimate this woman, leading her to an almost metaphysical self-abandonment. There's the extraordinary moment of the "couch scene" when the camera seeks out the expressions, gestures and hesitations on the couple's faces... A miraculous shot that records the moment of physical abandon of the body and soul of a woman to the desire of a man, a woman who nonetheless gives nothing away and clings fiercely to her freedom.
1996 saw the release of Parfait amour, a great romantic film and a fatal moment of cinema. A rigorous work that films a specific period: that of love and falling out of love. Catherine Breillat films love and death at work in a condensed version of life where the confrontation of desires and the differences in their nature lead Frédérique (Isabelle Renauld, sensual and harsh, dominant) and Chris (Francis Renaud, immature, a gambler and a show-off) towards a tragic end, as if it were necessary to pay for wanting a love stronger than sex.
For several years, the director (who greatly admires Nagisa Oshima's film In the Realm of the Senses) had dreamed of making a film that would tackle the representation of physical love full on. This was done in a masterly manner with Romance, a "white work" in which Marie (Caroline Ducey, sublime as a white/dark angel) throws herself desperately body and soul into the sensual and mystical quest for physical and romantic love. A radical, ample, icy and burning film that showed Catherine Breillat to be a major filmmaker.
1976 :UNE VRAIE JEUNE FILLE
(a real young girl)
1979 : TAPAGE NOCTURNE
1987 : 36 FILLETTE
1991 : SALE COMME UN ANGE
(dirty like an angel)
1996 : PARFAIT AMOUR
1999 : ROMANCE
2000 : A MA SOEUR! (fat girl)
2001 : BREVE TRAVERSEE (brief crossing)
2002 : SEX IS COMEDY
2004 : ANATOMIE DE l'ENFER
(Anatomy of Hell)