An Affair of Love (1999)
They recount their impressions to the Interviewer. They met through a magazine ad, She and He. They corresponded through the Internet. He responded to her ad seeking someone to fulfil her fantasy for "a pornographic affair". This is their first meeting in a Paris café. He's a little reticent. She wants to know whether or not he's hairy. (He is; he's Spanish.) They retire to a nearby hotel room. The door of the room closes. Unseen, the affair is consummated... They continue to see one another regularly each week. They find they get along well together. Soon she suggests that they try normal sex the next time...
A woman puts an ad in a magazine looking for a man to fulfill her fantasy of a stringless, anonymous pornographic affair.
- Frédéric Fonteynes "Une Liaison Pornographique" (US title, "An Affair of Love") is an unusual love story, insofar as it unfolds in reverse. Every Thursday, at the same hotel, at the same café, He and She (they are totally anonymous) meet in order to satisfy their sexual phantasm. Their anonymity is not without recalling Alain Renais characters in "Hiroshima Mon Amour" (1958) or "Last Year at Marienbad" (1961). But here the ordeal is not that of the memory nor of the bomb, but that of a trite story of two people who do not know how to love and communicate.
She (Nathalie Baye), a mid-fortyish, confident, unattached woman, felt the need to realize a sexual phantasm. To this end, she placed a classified ad in a pornographic journal (or was it on the internet?). He (Sergi Lopez), a handsome man, ten years her junior, answered it. Now sitting at two different locations, they recall their adventure to an unseen man (a journalist, a pollster, whomever), answering his questions, as the camera goes back and forth between the two characters. Their descriptions of the circumstances which lead to their first meeting are remarkable by their lack of consistency. But, if their recollections of specific facts have grown vague, the strong emotions engendered by their love for each other and their tragic break-up are still very much alive. The rest of the story is presented in a series of flashbacks, interspersed with the characters comments to the interviewer.
At their nervous first meeting in a café, She is reserved at first and He is rather shy, although at first glance, one might have an impression of him as a macho-type. They face each other at a table, somewhat self-conscious. Their conversation is sparse and He seems somewhat taken aback by her boldness when She informs him that she has already reserved a room in a nearby hotel.
They go to the hotel, register, and go upstairs to their room. The door closes on them, leaving the camera outside, and the next scene shows them in the street confirming their next date for the following Thursday. And so they meet weekly, for months. However, as time progresses, the sexual fantasy is slowly moving to the background as their feelings for each other develop. It is obvious that from the first moment they met, they were attracted to each other. Now, there seems to be the possibility that they have really fallen in love. This possibility is born out when, back in the café, She declares her love to He. They go to the hotel, but his time, they will make love normally, and for the first time, the viewer is allowed to enter in their room.
Eventually, the time comes when the two cannot go further without a real, traditional commitment. Such commitment requires them to change direction, not only into a situation of emotional sharing, but into the realization that their couple is not exactly an island. The latter is brought about by an incident at the hotel, when an older stranger (Paul Pavel) mistakenly enters their room, and is later found dead of an apparent heart attack in the hallway. This incident gets them involved with the reality of the outside world that they experience as a couple for the first time. The brief intrusion of the stranger into their life and the subsequent meeting with his wife (Sylvie Van den Elsen) shows what could be awaiting He and She, should they persist in the logical evolution of their relationship.
He and She meet for a final time at the café, each having individually decided to continue toward a final commitment. But unsure of and trying to double-guess their partners desire yet unable to communicate, they instead part forever.
Returning to the present moment and to their interview with the unseen man, they both still refuse to divulge the character of the womans phantasm. She brushes off the interviewer by simply stating "It was an act of love. It could have been anything."