Romance 1999

This is the happiest anyone looks in the entire film. (source)

A couple who’ve been together a few months are having difficulties because the man—Paul (Sagamore Stevenin) is no longer interested in sex. He doesn’t think it’s important. Marie (Caroline Ducey) heartily disagrees. She wants to be with him every night.

He gives her tacit permission to have an affair—or at least wouldn’t be bothered if she did (they are French, after all)—but she hasn’t.

In bed that evening she attempts to fellate him after he clearly says no (this is obviously unsimulated) and they discuss his decision to not engage in sexual intercourse.

His motives are unclear, but they don’t need to be articulated. I wanted to say to Marie that no is a complete sentence. It was interesting to see a man being the one refusing sexual advances and the woman trying to coerce and guilt their way into sex.

I also wanted the woman to get her hair out of her face. It seemed permanently rumpled.

Unable to get what she wanted, Marie went to a bar and picked up a stranger for anonymous make outs. She likes controlling men. I chose this film for the unsimulated sex, but it would also appeal to men who like women who control their pleasure.

There’s lots of tortured French angst and whispered conversation. Marie cries frequently. Or I should say tears roll down her pale face. There’s no sobbing or expression of sadness. I’m going to call that French weeping from now on.

Both of the leads only wear beige and white, and his very nice apartment is done in the same muted tones. Subtle metaphor for their tepid sex life, there.

She meets up with the guy from the bar and, after putting a condom on his, not unimpressive cock, they have sex (most likely simulated, but for a realistic length of time). And we learn she’s into objectification, though she doesn’t call it that.

Then she winds up having a conversation with someone who is either her colleague or boss—it’s unclear. Either way, his name is Robert (Francois Berleand).

And he is the human equivalent of black mould.

‘The only way to be loved by women is via rape.’

Fuck you, you fucking fuck.

I mean, no one in this is particularly likable, but shit.

There’s a scene with this person that made me want to drag both parties to an educational on enthusiastic consent. After punching him in the face with a billy club. I haven’t so disliked a male character since the Tom Cruise character in Magnolia.

Finally, some sort of consent is requested and granted and they engage in a kinky scene.

Aaaaand there’s a rape scene (not with the colleague/boss). Not consent violation, but what would be called rape by even a vanilla person. Trigger warning there. Around the hour six minute mark. It’s over pretty quickly, but what is the message? ‘This woman has lots of sex so she deserved to be raped?’

Immediately after, though, as the guy is running away she screams:

I’m not ashamed, you asshole!

Which was weirdly empowering.

Still, I am so over rape-as-plot-device the light from it won’t reach me for a thousand years.

This film has some janky-ass shibari. I wanted to fix it—it’s not difficult to do some really simple ties.

Their lives continue on in French angsty whispers and philosophies about men and women and their ultimate incompatibility and sex and blah.

And there are shots of a live birth. Because why not.

Classic French ending of where is this going? Oh right, sure. The credits. There was a kind of sense of closure but it seemed a bit extreme.

She turned the gas on and left the apartment so it exploded, killing both him and his cat. You can just break up with the guy. Not having sex with you hardly warrants murder.

It was something else, I’ll say that. The unsimulated sex was interesting to see as part of a mainstream film.

There were a few conversations about oral sex (female on male) where it was clear it was not a popular act—Marie said she didn’t do it (with the stranger) then with her boyfriend she said she liked the smell of his dick and he called her disgusting. Fellatio with him included just the head. It reminded me of a show from the late 90s called Taxicab Confessions, I think, where cab drivers in New York talked to people in their cabs. One conversation I still recall was between a driver and two French guys who said they liked American girls because French girls didn’t do blow jobs. ‘Maybe if you got them really, really hot they would suck your dick.’ But American girls just did them anyway.

So now I’m curious if that’s changed or if it’s still true.

Aside from the actual sex and the kink it’s a pretty typical, French film about feelings and relationships where you don’t particularly like any of the characters but you want to know how they’re going to make themselves more miserable next.

3/5

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