Romance - Lilith Likes to Watch

Title: Romance
Starring: Caroline Ducey, Sagamore Stévenin, François Berléand
Director: Catherine Breillat
Synopsis: 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.
Lilith's Notes: Ce n'est pas une pipe.

"They say a man who fucks a woman honours her"
We are all, by now, familiar with the term “Lives in the head rent free”. That’s this movie for me. I had seen Romance X years ago, and for the most part I found it gently unremarkable except for a few truly baffling fragments of film making. Because of a chain of absolutely unhinged editing and acting choices, this film features approximately three seconds that, upon first viewing, shocked and delighted me and had me laughing for minutes. Those approximate three seconds seared themselves into my brain and to this day, they occasionally come to mind and I will giggle to myself.

This movie lives in my head rent free.

And the worst part is, I don’t want to tell you what the moment is. I don’t want to spoil it. I want you, need you, to experience it for yourself. I want to know if you had the same reaction that I did. Even now, by my mere mentioning of something, I’ve softened the experience for you, spoiled it a little. You’re anticipating it. You’re on guard for it.

Marie, (played by Caroline Ducey) is a lady in her early to mid twenties who has a boyfriend named Paul, (played by Sagamore Stévenin). Paul is a model and while he is apparently faithful, he is a huge flirt. He worships other ladies on the club dancefloor and gets close with women co-models.

Only, he won’t touch Marie at all. He seems completely ambivalent toward her while she craves his love.

Frustrated, Marie explores other options. She meets a man named Paolo (played by Rocco Seffredi) and the two begin an affair. She feels nothing but contemplative disgust for Paolo. She hates the men she fucks, but says she is like a hole that needs to be filled and Paolo and those like him serve that purpose.

To that, we learn that Marie dislikes giving head and will only do it for Paul, her boyfriend, though the sentiment is wasted on him.

When they go to the club and Paul is once more peacocking at ladies on the dance floor, Marie wordlessly gets her coat and heads back home. Paul follows her and tells her she is making a scene.

No, she absolutely is not. She didn’t yell at him, or cry, or throw a drink. She just is leaving. Clearly she does not need to be there. She is exercizing her autonomy but he accuses her of making a scene. He tells her that he’s not into her because she has no confidence. That is untrue. This is just a French, arthouse version of Gaslight.

Paul then has the audacity to tell Marie that he wishes she would get pregnant. She rightfully points out that for that to happen, Paul would have to actually fuck her.

On her way home from somewhere or another, Marie meets a man who offers to go down on her for a price. She pays and he eats her out on the stairs to her apartment hallway. Then, he assaults her. She comes home to Paul, all ragged and messy and he doesn’t even seem to notice, let alone care.

Marie confides in her boss, Robert (played by François Berléand) the principal of the school she teaches at, and the two begin a Dom/sub bondage relationship. At one point, he’s fingering her and he’s very engrossed in the whole situation but she is looking around like she’s waiting for it to be over. We’ve all been that girl. But his hand come away wet so he must be doing something right. This moment leads to another where Robert makes her walk with her panties around her thighs and her skirt hiked up. He takes her to a mirror and displays Marie to herself. It is very hot and the best (non-laugh-riot) shot of the film.

Robert and Marie never actually have sex. They talk, he ties her up and gags her, and they enjoy expensive, caviar-laiden dinners together. When she is with him, she wears red.

Paul, in his monochromatic world of white, senses he’s losing control of Marie as she fucks him wearing one of her red dresses. She is on top, and tells him she is the man now. He throws her off him.

Upon learning that she is pregnant, Marie meditates on the nature of pregnancy, female autonomy, and fantasizes about a strange brothel. Now, upon seeing this scene, you’re going to think to yourself “Oh, this is obviously what Lilith was talking about.” No. It’s not. You’ll know it when you see it.

So anyway, Marie is pregnant and insists it’s Paul’s but it could be the man who assaulted her. We don’t know because there’s no real sense of time. Even a title card that gave the month would be appriciated, so we would know that it was impossible for Marie’s attacker to be the one who impregnated her. The lack of acknowledging it is unfufilling from a story perspective.

After an explosive climax where we very much see a real complete live birth of a human from another human, Marie realizes that what truly gave her joy was motherhood.

Romance reminds me a lot of Desire. Both are films where a young woman tries to find herself through exploration of her sexuality and how pleasure is fleeting, if there exists any at all. It also felt like a very tame version of Nymphomaniac. Perhaps the three films would make an interesting marathon.

I will leave you with this: In French, the word for “Blowjob” is “pipe”. It is pronounced “Peep”. This is not the thing that lives in my head rent free.

Best Moment: It feels horrible to say it, but when the man goes down on Marie. They’re on the stairs and there’s just something so desperate about staircase sex. Like you’re so insatiable you can’t even manage to get to a more comfortable spot

Worst Moment:At one point Robert just drones on and on. The film lost me for a while at that moment. Also his rope work seemed shoddy


Until next time, my voracious voyeurs. I’m Lilith, and I’m always watching.

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