There have been lots of wonderful movies about making movies (8 1/2, Day For Night, etc) but Catherine Breillat's reflexive film, Sex Is Comedy (2002), essentially about the making of one scene from her powerful and upsetting movie Fat Girl, takes this genre even further.
Don't let the word "comedy" though mislead you about the film's premise. When Breillat, the French director of such provokingly titled movies as the unromantic Romance, talk about comedy, she means that nervous, awkward laughter at a situation you're thankful you aren't in. Breillat is also keenly interested in the gender dynamic associated with work and sex, so the bulk of the film's drama circles around the female director, Jeanne (Anne Parillaud) trying to elicit the best performance from her young male actor. Between the awkwardness of outdoor shooting, the actors not getting along and even prostetic organs waving about, it's a miracle that Jeanne gets the performances she does in the end.
For those interested in the nitty gritty details involved in making an edgy European art flick, in the vein of Intolerable or the Piano Teacher, Sex Is Comedy is a must see.
Sex Is Comedy plays at the Film Forum until next Tuesday, Nov. 2. Read more about Breillat on the Australian online film journal, Sense of Cinema. Another of her films, Anatomy of Hell, is also currently in New York theaters.