Caroline Ducey stars in this erotic French drama written and directed by Catherine Breillat. Schoolteacher Marie (Ducey) is frustrated by her boyfriend Paul (Sagamore Stévenin)'s refusal to make love to her, and so embarks on a series of random sexual encounters with strangers. Her new lovers include a young Italian, Paolo (Rocco Siffredi), whom she picks up in a bar, and Robert (François Berléand), a superior at school.
Briefly notorious around the time of its release for being just about the most sexually explicit art-house film to be passed uncut by the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC), Romance
is strong stuff, as forebodingly enigmatic as it is confrontational. Schoolteacher Marie (Caroline Ducey) lives with her boyfriend Paul (Sagamore Stévenin), a vapid male model. When he refuses to have sex with her anymore she seeks out loveless couplings with, among others, an Italian widower (Rocco Siffredi, a porn star in real life) and her headmaster (François Berléand), who introduces her to bondage. Marie's abject, monotonous voiceover tartly undercuts any potential titillation the images might offer (although there'll be no stopping some viewers from watching this with the sound off). With all the careful, neutral-coloured tailoring and immaculately whitened set dressing, it's a bit like a film edition of Elle Interiors
as edited by Anaïs Nin. For all that, you have to admire director Catherine Breillat's willingness to take risks--and certainly Romance
potentially risks boring as many readers as it shocks others. No less intrepid is Ducey, literally exposing herself in a way few actresses would dare. Whether the film really opens up and interrogates the nature of female sexuality, Breillat's stated aim, is debatable, but there's no doubting the film's visceral impact.--Leslie Felperin