Catherine Breillat’s controversial 1999 erotic drama, Romance, has finally been given a Blu-ray release, courtesy of Strand Releasing.
Romance focuses on an elementary school teacher named Marie (played by Caroline Ducey), who is in an unhappy relationship with her longtime model boyfriend, Paul (Sagamore Stévenin). For what seems like an eternity to Marie, Paul has long been disinterested in sex, leaving Marie in a state of restlessness and pent up sexual frustration. Before long, Marie begins a quest to fulfill her desires with other men, including an older, unattractive colleague of hers who has a fondness for sadomasochism.
This journey causes Marie to turn inwards, questioning and rationalizing her motives, most of which are revealed to the viewer through voiceover. Breillat’s film is a sordid and intellectually satisfying dissection of late nineties sexual politics that, even to this day, is sure to offend and enlighten audiences just as it did when it was officially released in 1999. The sexuality is unsimulated, giving the intimate and sadomasochistic scenes an explicit edge that the more recent Fifty Shades trilogy could never even begin to touch. Romance also has the same element of the eerie and uncanny that Breillat would utilize much later with Fat Girl. Ominous soundscapes creep in at times when you don’t expect them to, foreshadowing some as yet unseen tragedy right around the corner.
And as with Fat Girl, the ending packs a punch.
If you can handle the no-holds-barred explicit sexuality, Romance is a film that is definitely worth a look. It is a film that will polarize and divide – and rightfully so. It has lost none of its power, for better or for worse.