Controversial seems to be Catherine Breillat’s middle name especially when talking about her filmography, as well as her written work. Romance is mainly known for being one of the films that features unsimulated sex, but this bleak unglamorous look into an unhappy woman’s love life is more than the controversy that follows it.
Marie’s (Caroline Ducey) boyfriend Paul refuses to have sex with her, leaving her unsatisfied and sexually frustrated. She decides to explore her desire through various encounters with men, even engaging in a sadomasochistic relationship, but every night she returns to Paul, desperately in love with him.
Marie is not happy. In fact, in one of her first scenes she is crying because of Paul, a cold stone faced man, who really doesn’t give a damn about her. We feel her ongoing frustration while being in love with a man who shows no affection, sexual or otherwise and wanting to fulfil her sexual appetitive which takes her to some dark places. All her pain is stemmed from Paul and he feels like the villain of the story but Marie isn’t entirely blameless. She obviously doesn’t deserve the treatment she receives from the men she meets (including Paul) but she also seems to enjoy the pain. Left to her own devices she actively seeks out the pain she receives. It isn’t until the end where she realises her worth and takes drastic revenge.
Breillat’s films highlight and discuss female pleasure through social and sexual conflicts. The character Marie seems to deny herself any sort of pleasure by staying with Paul. Even when she has affairs, she keeps to strict rules dare she adventure any closer to her ultimate goal of pleasure. Always dressed in white apart from the red dress near the end, she is both unattainable and easily seduced at the same time, conveying various emotions with one expression and tearful outbreaks. Breillat exacts this character from Caroline Ducey as if she is slowly and painful performing surgery and that is somthing to admire.
If you’re looking for an overlooked gem full of insight and long deep, meaningful conversations about the past, present and the future then you will be disappointed. Romance is not the film for you, especially if you’re suffering from issues as shown in the film. However if you have been craving that streak of delicious unaccountability prepare to me be dismayed and entertained.
Dir: Catherine Breillat
Prd: Jean-François Lepetit
Scr: Catherine Breillat
Cast: Caroline Ducey, Sagamore Stévenin, François Berléand, Rocco Siffredi
DoP: Yorgos Arvanitis
Music: Raphaël Tidas, DJ Valentin