Strange as it may seem, Catherine Breillat seems to have given up her obsession with sex, at least for a while.
The French writer-director who rejoiced in the nickname “the auteur of porn” after making such raunchy fare as Romance, Anatomy of Hell and À ma soeur now finds inspiration in fairytales. Her latest film, Sleeping Beauty (La belle endormie), based on Charles Perrault's classic fairytale La Belle au bois dormant, will open the Venice International Film Festival, which runs September 1-11.
It's her second consecutive film from the same author following Bluebeard, which combines the story of a nobleman whose wives disappear as fast as he can marry them with the tale of two sisters in the 1950s who sneak up to an attic to read the fairytale and are terrified. There's no sex or nudity and the most graphic scene shows a duck getting its head cut off.
Breillat, who suffered a stroke in 2004 from which she's almost fully recovered, was attracted to Sleeping Beauty as a symbol of adolescence. “I am going to choose to make the young girl fall asleep at the age of six, and have troubling, disturbing, frightening dreams until she wakes up at the age of 16 as a young girl,” she told blogger Glenn Kenny.
“I want to make it absolutely modern. I think there are resemblances with 36 fillette [Breillat's third feature in 1988]. I also like the idea of taking this girl who falls asleep as a young girl telling herself scary tales who dreams like young girls do of fairy princess and having her wake up in an absolutely modern age.”
All Perrault's tales are about 10 pages long so she says the challenge was to “extrapolate what touches you and what their real inner meaning is.”
Breillat's romantic interlude with fairytales may be temporary because she is determined to make a film based on her novel Bad Love, which focuses on a woman trapped in a destructive relationship. She's wanted to make the film on that subject for more than 10 years and plans to give the lead role to supermodel/actress Naomi Campbell.
It was wrongly reported that she abandoned the project after her male lead Christophe Rocancourt swindled her out of a large sum of money, an incident she chronicled in a 2009 book Abuse of Weakness.
“Christophe Rocancourt is totally replaceable,” she told Village Voice. “Doing a film in English is a major problem. Naomi's a wonderful actress, but because she doesn't speak French, we'd have to shoot the film in English. And it's impossible to find funding to shoot a film [in France] in English unless you're a very commercial director. That said, I'm a very stubborn filmmaker, and I haven't given up hope.”