Serious films about sex are rare, but it's perhaps unsurprising that French writer/director Breillat should have produced such an extraordinarily focused study, as she's been making movies on the subject since 1976. This is her most ambitious and audacious work to date. The story itself is so simple, it has the clarity of a fable: bored, depressed and 'dishonoured' by her lover Paul's lack of physical interest in her, schoolteacher Marie (Ducey) embarks on a sexual odyssey. That's it for the plot. Breillat's interest is in her heroine's psychology, and in her steady growth through transgression, experiment and self-analysis, however painful or potentially self-destructive the consequences may be. Entailing a kind of sentimental education, the film is distinguished by its cool refusal to judge or applaud Marie's actions; Breillat simply observes and analyses. Not that her aesthetic is 'realist'. Marie's philosophical/poetic voice-over, the inexorable linear progress of her actions, and the stark, subtly stylised interiors situate the film in the realm of metaphor. At the same time, however, the very frank physicality roots it in a world recognisably our own, while the gaze at erotic activity results not in titillation but in a contemplation of sexual congress as an outward manifestation of deeper, more complex needs. Indeed, while this is clearly 'a woman's film' in its point of view, the cool, detached air of enquiry, the focus on paraphernalia and emotional sophistication recall Buñuel, Borowczyk and Oshima.
Cast and crew
Fabien de Jomaron