294) Romance (1999) Dir: Catherine Breillat Date Released: October 1999 Date Seen: September 14, 2009 Rating: 2.25/5
"I don't like having to say things," says Marie (Caroline Ducey) just after having been tied-up by her older lover Robert (Francois Berleand!). That line of dialogue encapsulates the contradiction of Marie's sex life in Catherine Breillat's Romance. She has to tell us that she doesn't like telling us things and likewise has to be made to feel like a victim by her callous boyfriend Paul (Stagamore Stevenin) in order for her to not only accept but vamp up her role as a sexual victim. Robert provides Marie with her perfect solution as he is the living embodiment of the middle libidinal ground. He wrings his hands as he ties Marie up and begs her to tell him if it's too tight. He's sensitive enough to listen to Marie but brusque enough to screw Marie, satisfying her understandably contradictory hormonal impulses.
Accordingly, Breillat refuses to allow Marie's body language to tell us what she's feeling but rather allows her to gab at us non-stop through a motormouth mock-conversational voiceover. The film's provocative images are thus tamed by Marie's contextualizing monologue, making the film a dull collision of blunt-on-blunt imagery.
Breillat purposefully doesn't even allow us to feel our way through Marie's sexual trials on our own, instead giving us so much access that she's daring you to beg for less. Just as Marie gives away everything she has to guard herself from being invaded, Breillat wants us to feel like we want to be taken into Marie's confidence but not as thoroughly as we are. Felicitations, Madame Provocatrice. I relent.