Eye For Film >> Movies >> Romance (1999) Film Review
Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray
Women and sex are a mystery to most men. They have no idea how deep it runs, how deep and strange, how strangely disconnected from romance. Catherine Breillat's film is personal. It devastates male attitudes to fidelity and trust. Marie (Caroline Ducey) is faithful to Paul (Sagamore Stevenin), even though he doesn't want to make love to her. She finds this humiliating and insulting and too painful to bear, as if she is hateful. "You despise me because I'm a woman."
He is cruel in his refusal to analyse his feelings. He takes the attitude, if you don't like it, leave. She stays. To ease her anguish, she tests the boundaries of lust and degradation, becoming addicted to sadomasochistic game-playing and the thrill of a stranger's embrace, discovering, as if she didn't know, that "women are the victims men require".
She is not a victim, rather the willing accomplice in others' fantasies, recognising the power of sex, while avoiding intimacy. "Physical love is triviality clashing with the divine," she tells herself, already lost in the language of metaphysics.
Many will find this an artsy excuse for pornography. It is nothing of the kind. Breillat's honesty is reflected in screenwriter, Severine Siaut's use of first-person narrative - very fashionable in neo-realist French cinema right now - the internal voice illuminating dark thoughts, like a lamp on the cellar stair.
The film's strength is its refusal to take its eye off Marie. No concessions are made. This is her body, her story, her emotions, her pain. Men don't want to be told how little they matter, especially when insisting how much they do, and obscenity is nothing but a reflection on the beholder's mind.Reviewed on: 19 Jan 2001