"I DISGUST YOU. I appall you. You hate me because I'm a woman," Marie says, after failing to arouse her boyfriend Paul with fellatio. The>"/>
"I DISGUST YOU. I appall you. You hate me because I'm a woman," Marie says, after failing to arouse her boyfriend Paul with fellatio. The explicit sequence neatly encapsulates the premise of Catherine Breillat's Romance, a film that delivers not only full-frontal nudity but the emotional nakedness of a personal diary.
directed by Catherine Breillat
starring Caroline Ducey and Sagamore
plays October 1-7 at Egyptian
Breillat, a French novelist and filmmaker, has said that Romance is about female desire, and from the get-go, the film takes on an unmistakably female gaze. The first several minutes consist solely of close-ups of Paul's exquisite face, the camera lingering on his high cheekbones, crystalline eyes, and porcelain complexion. Yet the magazine-handsome Paul (Sagamore Stevenin) isn't meant to be anything but a beautiful, unattainable fantasy. He's a got a stony personality to match his statuesque physique, and his sexual rejection of Marie (Caroline Ducey) catapults her into a mad descent of confusion, self-loathing, and promiscuity.
The rail-thin gamine Ducey gives a remarkably voluptuous portrayal of sexual longing. The more Paul refuses her, the hotter Marie pines for him, delving into his shorts like a stray cat offered a bowl of milk. It's a desire rarely seen outside of pornography, prompting self-examination that—like her filthy mirror image during a subsequent S&M session—isn't very pretty.
Spurned by Paul, Marie begins a series of reckless trysts that include getting tied up in a Story of O-like scenario, with her dress pulled up to reveal a thick tangle of pubic hair, and paying a streetwalker to eat her out on a stairway. Yet Romance's title isn't meant to be ironic; Marie is actually a romantic, in a peculiar sort of way. More than anything, she wants to be wanted—by Paul, the man she loves. Refusing to kiss a stranger who fucks her, she states in a voice-over, "A guy should just take you without saying a word."
Breillat's use of color and decor is as bold as her script but, unfortunately, less imaginative. Paul and Marie's bedroom, with its stark white walls, white chairs, and white bed, has all the sexy ambiance of a hospital. When Paul isn't ensconced in the antiseptic whiteness of the room, he's perched with a book in the clean lines of a sushi bar. Later, Marie and a sadist lover drink and party in a baroque restaurant with red velvet chairs and golden lighting. This contrast becomes overkill when Marie finally appears in a crimson dress after spending the entire movie dressed in ivory. One finally wishes that the audacious Breillat could've somehow helped enliven Kubrick's beautiful but tepid Eyes Wide Shut with a real understanding of jealousy and desire.
"IF YOU'RE SUPPOSED to learn from your mistakes, he was my most spectacular fuck-up," says Sarah Polley as a twentysomething woman reflecting on her relationship with a man twice her age. A Sundance award-winner, Guinevere shares Romance's theme of sex as a tool for self-revelation. But since this is an American movie, there's nary a naked haunch in sight. Yet it thoughtfully explores a common social phenomenon: the sexual attraction between an older man and younger woman.
directed by Audrey Wells
starring Sarah Polley and Stephen Rea
opens October 1 at Harvard Exit
Polley's shy character is transformed by her relationship—or, more precisely, her break-up—with Stephen Rea's bohemian photographer. He sees beauty and potential in her that she doesn't, and wins her with his Kerouac-like charms. Yet he pushes her to "work, learn, create something, photograph, paint, write, or dance." He's a domineering Pygmalion who wants to create the perfect woman—per his echt-artistic fantasies. Meanwhile, his fly ex-girlfriends amusingly coach the ingenue from the sidelines. And as wicked as they may seem, we root for the women who once fell for the guy, then found the strength to leave him.