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Although deeply in love with her boyfriend - and indeed sleeping in the same bed with him - a schoolteacher cannot handle the almost complete lack of intimacy he will allow. Increasingly frustrated, she gradually finds her sexual appetites leading her into ever more risky situations, including a developing one with the headmaster. Written by
Jeremy Perkins <firstname.lastname@example.org>
A movie about realising identity - not about gender
I was very confused at the end of 'Romance' as to whether I liked it or not, and whether I thought it was a good film or not. The best bit for me was probably the Q&A with director Catherine Breillat at the end. She was (especially with the help of a translator) very interesting and articulate - whether one agreed with her or not - and I found the film a valuable commentary on her thoughts rather than the other way round.
The film is confusing; as we are aware, this is not pornography - but what *is* it about? Gender issues? Masochism? The female central character goes through a number of extreme sexual encounters and eventually finds some sense of identity unrelated to her sense of being part of a sexual partnership - although the struggle to find that identity has necessitated exploring her sexual desire. The other issue is censorship, as Breillat has something of a mission to push back censorship; this is related to her philosophical take on sexuality however rather than abolishing censorship for the sake of doing so alone. That which (sexually) disgusts us is twinned to that which (sexually) uplifts - the difference is not in the type of act but in the context - all of which is an extended metaphor on censorship itself. Breillat claims that the acts we find offensive in real life are also the acts we find offensive in images, an idea which in itself can lead to some self-awareness. But to Breillat, sexuality has become stereotyped in films. Show she wants to explore the boundaries and show that those boundaries, in themselves, are not good or bad, just as many acts, stereotyped as disgusting or wonderful, are not so in themselves but only in how we make them.
The degree to which she achieves this in 'Romance' may be the subject of debate for a long time to come. I hope I get the chance to see and study some of her other films. I hope the film is not cut by the censors. As to whether it is a great movie, I am less sure (after a lot of discussion and thought I'm slightly more inclined to say it is than it isn't though!) As I am gradually convinced of the director's unshaking artistic integrity I am more willing to put in the effort to understand her rather complex thought. As her film is her principle expression of this thought I have ranked it quite highly - largely for what she attempts, with whatever success, than what she achieves. As Sartre pointed out, success is more in the journey than the achievement.
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