Directed by Catherine Breillat
Review by Matt Heffernan
In the past few years, the Supreme Court has tried at various times to attempt to define pornography. The answer that most people come up with is "I know it when I see it."
Marie (Caroline Trousselard) lives with her boyfriend, Paul (Sagamore Stévenin), but they rarely make love. This is not an optimal situation for her, since she is a nymphomaniac. One night, after Paul has gone to sleep, Marie goes to a café, and meets a handsome stud named Paolo (Italian porn star Rocco Siffredi). She tells him she is married to make their impending affair more erotic.
Her lust ignited, she goes about looking for what she can't get at home. She has an affair with Robert (François Berléand), the principal of the school where she teaches grammar. He is a Don Juan, who has had over 10,000 women. He is really into bondage, which satisfies Marie's masochism. She even goes so far as to accept a proposition from some guy on the street. All the while, she continues a monologue (both internal and spoken) about how her life is empty, and sex is just how she fills it.
Now correct me if I'm mistaken, but that certainly sounds like a premise for a pornographic film. Her monologue is simply a contrivance to make it look like an "art" film. The sex scenes are very graphic, and often appear to be real. They are so graphic, that it would be impossible to show this film on cable. I've see enough of both art and porn in my life, and this one goes in the latter column.
I couldn't believe I was watching this in the same little art house where I saw Elizabeth and An Ideal Husband. I felt like Robert De Niro's character in Taxi Driver, and at least I didn't bring anybody with me.
Before I went to see this film I did not know what is was about. All I knew was that it just came out. I made the fatal mistake of watching Luis Buñuel's Belle de Jour literally right before watching Romance. I had no idea Catherine Breillat's film would be so similar, and therefore a severe letdown (not to mention shocking that is was directed by a woman). My recommendation is rent the Buñuel film, and learn that you don't need a "money shot" to make a film erotic.
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Review © 1999 Matt Heffernan