Catherine Breillat’s sexually-explicit French drama gets a hi-def re-release.
Frustrated by the lack of intimacy and affection in her relationship, schoolteacher Marie (Caroline Ducey) explores her desires and identity through a series of increasingly extreme sexual exploits.
Straddling the line between arthouse drama and hardcore erotica, Romance is a film of extremes. It is at times poetic and poignant, at others ponderously trite. The cinematography is sometimes sterile and distant, sometimes intense and voyeuristic, mirroring Marie’s emotional journey.
Like its central relationship, the film lacks drive, instead meandering through Marie’s musings on female sexual experience and existential ennui (“’to have’ is not the same as ‘to be,’” she explains to her pupils during a lesson on grammar). All of which ambles to an unexpectedly explosive climax, which tries to bring a dramatic weight that the narrative hasn’t really earned.
Caroline Ducey provides a confident and controlled central performance. Dressed almost entirely in white, her character is a blank page for Breillat’s script, her morose expression punctuated by a strand of hair hanging over her face like a constant question. When her cool façade finally does surrender to real emotion, it feels like a believable relief.
That lingering question is ‘why?’ Despite spending the best part of 100 minutes with her on a journey of self-discovery, we still know very little about Marie and her motivations. And while this sense of enigma and emotional detachment seems the whole point of Breillat’s film, it doesn’t make for entirely satisfying encounter.
Romance is released on Blu-ray and on-demand on 15th July through Second Sight Films.
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