Sextape (À Genoux Les Gars)
Funny, farcical and wincing, Sextape responds to the sexual politics of the moment. Antoine Desrosières has an acute eye for the complications of emerging desire, pointedly going after the internalised hatred of young women and the ingrained misogyny of young men, but he lets off the latter too lightly. What we witness is sexual violence, not innocuous fumbling, and the final comeuppance is too neat and puerile to be satisfying.
Rim (Inas Chanti) and Yasmina (Souad Arsane) start double-dating Majid (Mehdi Dahmane) and Salim (Sidi Mejai). The sisters have a playful, intimate relationship – they share a bed – brought on by apparently strict parents and the economic constraints of a working-class neighbourhood. The boys partake in excited, juvenile, sexist banter, while their close friendship borders on homoeroticism.
We quickly witness misogyny and homophobia as Rim – the older, more confident sister – teases the boys about graphic hypothetical scenarios involving their parents. Prejudices overload the faculties as Majid and Salim contradict and bluff their way out of conversations. The performances are natural to a point, with only some scenes tending to amateur dramatics. The director manages a humorous tone, but we’re always aware of the pernicious mindset, the slippery slope, the pervasive culture that facilitates gendered abuse.
A queasy, illegal encounter in a car park leads to an explicit video, starting a game of pressure and blackmail. This amounts to a questionably handled discussion of the degrees and types of consent, one that happens over candid phone calls, placing the viewer as recipient to a monologue. Colloquial texts are projected onto the screen to break up the acts, but we never see the sex tape in question. Instead, the audio of sex dominates the film, with a preference for fellatio over penetration. Blowjobs act as a curious endpoint throughout, as men seek basic satisfaction over erotic intimacy.
This comedy about rape and revenge porn raises ethical questions. Sextape judges the malice and stupidity of young men quite accurately, as their treatment of Rim and Yasmina is processed through Islamic culture, hormonal development and a society that dehumanises and assaults women. And for one character, a sexual awakening – rendered partly through animation – suggests an independent epiphany, a literal coming of age unfiltered by When Harry Met Sally-style orgasmic imitation. But it’s hard not to think that the criminals deserved justice as well, even in the form of punishment. Perhaps that’s the point.
Sextape (À Genoux Les Gars) does not have a UK release date yet.
Read more reviews from our Cannes Film Festival 2018 coverage here.
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Watch the trailer for Sextape (À Genoux Les Gars) here: