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Marina Antunes [Film Festival 12.05.18] Canada drama

On paper, writer/director Renée Beaulieu's Les Salopes or The Naturally Wanton Pleasure of Skin sounds like a great opportunity to be a bit risqué: the movie stars Brigitte Poupart as Marie-Claire, a professor of dermatology embarking on a new research project which aims to find a correlation between skin's response to different forms of sexual release and whether emotions, love and lust, affect skin, and hence human response to sexual stimulation, differently.

What one can't prepare for is Beaulieu's in-your-face approach to female sexuality which , even in films which focus on women and their sex lives, never quite reach this level of openness and it can be unnerving. Thankfully, Beaulieu doesn't hide her approach and it's abundantly clear from the film's opening sequence that Les Salopes will embrace female sexuality in a way that is liberating, uncomfortable and frank.

Beaulieu makes no apologies for Marie-Claire's actions. She and her husband have an understanding and Marie-Claire takes full advantage, coming in and out of sexual liaisons as she desires. It just happens that her appetite dovetails into her research but that part of the story takes a back-seat to the drama that begins to unfold in Marie-Claire's life. Her best friend is going through a midlife crisis, a work colleague is accused of sexual misconduct and her otherwise happy marriage takes turn when Marie-Claire reveals that she's been seeing another man (ha!); a revelation which brings her marriage to a standstill.

Usually, stories about relationships falling apart focus on the women as victims who must put their lives back together but Les Salopes takes a completely different approach, putting the woman in the driver's seat and the results are not simple to process because we simply don't see these stories often and certainly not from the female perspective. Marie-Claire is in fully in control of her life and actions and those around her are forced to bend to her will or move out of her way and as harsh as her actions seem, it's exhilarating to see a woman be so free and open with her ideas and actions.

As boundary-pushing as Les Salopes is, none of it would be possible without Brigitte Poupart who is astounding. It's not just that the film is sexually explicit, there's certainly a lot of sex which focuses almost exclusively on Marie-Claire's pleasure, but Poupart is also tasked with some heavy emotional lifting, particularly when dealing with her husband and daughter, and she handles both aspects of the character wonderfully.

Some may look at Beaulieu's Les Salopes or The Naturally Wanton Pleasure of Skin as unnecessarily sexual but it's so much more than that. Beaulieu's film tackles issues of family, sexuality, friendship, expectation and so much more in a way that feels complicated and real and from a female perspective which is not only refreshing but necessary. The fact that a 40-something woman is portrayed as being alive and having wants and needs and a sexual appetite is a pleasant bonus.

Beaulieu's Les Salopes or The Naturally Wanton Pleasure of Skin is currently playing the festival circuit.

Recommended Release: Raw

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