|An Affair of Love
(Une Liaison Pornographique)
Perhaps in an effort not to confuse or mislead the American public,
the Frederic Fonteyne's French-language character study of a romance
between two middle-aged, rather ordinary people has had its title changed
from the more provocative UNE LIAISON PORNOGRAPHIQUE
(A PORNOGRAPHIC AFFAIR) to the more palatable AN AFFAIR OF LOVE.
By whatever name, the film is a provocative and finely-tuned dissection
of what started as a random encounter that surprisingly took on added
The premise alone is intriguing. A single woman places a personal ad
seeking a man willing to fulfill a sexual fantasy. Now, long after the
relationship has ended, they play a sort of he said/she said game, discussing
their affair with an unseen interviewer but wisely never revealing the impetus
that brought them together.
The woman is portrayed with extraordinary skill and grace by Nathalie
Baye. The man is played with bearish wit and skill by the Spanish-born
Sergei López. The unlikely combination of the slightly portly younger López
and the mature, still sexy Baye is what keeps this slight (it runs only 80
minutes) feature on track.
In the early scenes, the conflicting memories are almost comical. He
claims they exchanged pictures and saw one another for some six months.
She says firmly she did not send a picture and that their coupling only
occurred for three, maybe four months. Fonteyne nicely captures the way
memory may play tricks on lovers and does so in a nonjudgmental manner
that only enhances the underlying themes of his work.
When the couple first meet, it is somewhat awkward. Both are shy
and nervous and after some "getting to know you" conversation, move
on to the nearby hotel where she has already booked a room. Whatever
her fantasy was, Fonteyne wisely keeps it off-screen and at no time do
either make any comments that betray the nature of the act. Some may
find this a bit of an annoyance -- like the proverbial elephant in the room,
but those who do are missing the point. It is because both are willing
to take that risk that allows them to form a bond. They soon are planning
a weekly rendezvous despite compartmentalizing their lives. Virtually no
personal information is exchanged, even names, yet they begin to develop
something that blossoms into romance. When they decide to sidetrack
from the usual and attempt to have plain intercourse, their relationship
begins to alter and gradually dissipate. When a garrulous elderly man
they've met in the hotel hallway collapse and they are forced to intervene,
the affair slips even more off balance.
Fonteyne manages to keep the film visually interesting and his choice
of colors (the hotel is fiery red, for instance) make subliminal comments on
the plot. The film functions on multiple levels -- the audience sees the
participants recalling the events as well as "flashbacks" wherein they are
experiencing the emotions -- and therefore captures a duality that enriches
the material, making for a very nontraditional approach to a love story,
that is after all, so commonplace as to be a cliché.
In his two principal actors, Fonteyne has found perfection. López is
genuinely moving, coming across as more the romantic (the traditionally
feminine role). Baye is simply amazing, communicating more in a single
glance than most actresses achieve with all-out emoting. Together they
make a believable couple, and the audience suffers the pangs of remorse
of what might have been had fate bestowed a different set of circumstances.
AN AFFAIR OF LOVE is that rare and much sought-after commodity,
-- an adult love story presented with intelligence and craftsmanship.
MPAA Rating: R
Running Time: 80 mins.
|© 2008 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.