Oh, those wacky French. They give us great comedies and boring films where the characters ramble on and on and on. Romance falls into the latter category, with one distinction, the inclusion of hard core sex. The boundaries of what is shown sexually in mainstream films have been shattered, with acts previously relegated to porno flicks now on the big screen for all (well, all over 18) to see. Romance is definitely a breakthrough, though no one was really asking for it.

Marie (Caroline Ducey) is in love with Paul (Sagamore Stevenin), the only problem is that she gets no sex from him. The physical act of love between them has stopped because Paul does not want to make love anymore. Marie, however, needs it bad. She embarks on a series of affairs to try to seek the physical intimacy she is missing from her boyfriend. First she meets Paolo (Italian porn star Rocco Siffredi, star in over 1,000 porno films!) in a bar, and leaves him because she begins to feel attached. Then she begins a relationship with her boss Robert (Francois Berleand), who introduces her to the world of bondage, which we, as the audience, can also experience. Seeking to somehow solidify her relationship with Paul, she eventually becomes pregnant with his child. To say that Marie has some problems is an understatement. She has no qualms about having sex with a man, but will not kiss him. Kissing is more intimate to her. She brands herself a nymphomaniac, and reduces herself to such degradations as being paid for sex, and being handcuffed and tied.

Director and writer Catherine Breillat is not afraid of putting normally taboo subjects onto film. In France, her films have dealt with sexually charged topics, including one about a fourteen-year old girl's quest to lose her virginity. Some have said that Breillat recently felt ignored, and set about to rectify this with Romance. In Romance, Breillat set about to reverse the roles of men and women. Here, the woman is the one with the power. She is the one with multiple partners, as opposed to the traditional idea of the 'studly' man who beds woman after woman. Breillat also tries to infuse the film with other ideas that are lost upon most people. Especially since there will probably be two types of people seeing this movie, serious filmgoers (critics and students of film) and, apparent in the showing I was at, old perverted men.

The story as a whole, is quite limp, unlike some of the actors. Breillat has Marie voicing over many of her thoughts about love, lust, and loneliness. This brings an unneeded sense of pretentiousness to the film, making it a little more boring than it already is. Romance also helps prove the notion that more is not necessarily better. Sometimes, leaving something to the imagination makes it all the more erotic. The sex scenes are forced and mechanical, and the acting is shallow and tepid. As in Summer of Sam and Eyes Wide Shut, there is an orgy sequence, but the one her goes the extra step that Lee and Kubrick refused to pass. Romance seems more suited to a late night/early morning showing on cable than a wide theatrical release. Breillat seems to have put in the explicit sex just to have it there, which is no reason to make a movie. The least she could have done is to give it all a purpose, instead of letting it meander aimlessly.

Mongoose Rates It: Not That Good.
1 hour, 33 minutes, French with English subtites, Not Rated, but language, scenes of masturbation, graphic sex, oral sex, and a birth.

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