Monday, March 7, 2011

Catherine Breillat To Introduce Baby Doll Tonight as IFC Center Smoulders with Kinky Subtext

Posted By on Mon, Mar 7, 2011 at 11:22 AM

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"Everything that's forbidden to us, it makes us unavoidably drawn to it," Catherine Breillat explained to The L's Nicolas Rapold a couple years ago, when she presented her film Bluebeard at the New York Film Festival, filling in the spaces of a sexless movie that's very much about desire.

It's perhaps not surprising, then, that she counts among her favorite American films a sexless movie that's nevertheless all about the unavoidable lure of the forbidden. Tonight, Breillat—who's in town to present her new fairy tale adaptation, The Sleeping Beauty—will appear at IFC Center to introduce and discuss Elia Kazan's 1956 Southern-friend Freud riff Baby Doll.

The film, scripted by Tennessee Williams, stars Carroll Baker as a thumbsucking child bride and Karl Malden and Eli Wallach—both Method actors from that hothouse of Freudian subtext the Actors Studio—as rivals vying to deflower her. When Film Forum screened the film in October of 2009, the L's Henry Stewart called the film:

...rife with subtext, every actor's gesture not only perfectly sensible, in that naturalistic Actor's Studio way, but also bursting with symbolic meaning. When Wallach breaks a nut in his teeth, it's not the only shell he's cracking! When Baker tells Malden, "what you done is bit off more than you can chew," she's saying infinitely more with her subsequent lick of a vanilla ice cream cone.

Most of the subtext is sexual: this is one racy flick, set during a sweltering deep South summer (though it was shot in winter, the palpable on-screen sultriness a testament, then, to the talent of the cast-and crew), even though there's no actual intercourse, suggested or otherwise, on screen or off. Still, Baby Doll provoked the ire of the Catholic Legion of Decency, then America's most prominent homegrown quasi-Fascist censorship movement. That a sexless movie could rile the Moral Policemen is yet another tribute to the masterful and suggestive performances...

Read the rest here.

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