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Une Liaison Pornographique

Frederic Fonteyne

A Private Affair

Two strangers meet through a personal ad and live out their fantasy of encounters based purely on sex without strings in Une liaison pornographique. This low-key but absorbing two-hander is distinguished by smooth-as-silk direction from Frederic Fonteyne and by fine performances from Nathalie Baye – who won the best actress award at the Venice film festival – and Sergi Lopez. The drama is set up within a quasi-documentary context, with both partners recounting the development of the affair to an unseen interviewer. The minor variations and contradictions in their accounts add to the film’s observations of the gap between male-female perspectives.
Agreeing to keep personal details about home and professional life out of the picture, the nameless, fortysomething lovers (Baye, Lopez), both of whom wear their advancing years well, meet in a bar and then check into a hotel for an afternoon romp. The film toys with the audience’s voyeuristic expectations by denying access to their room, instead training the camera on the hotel corridor as neighbouring guests and maids pass by. From their first meeting, the couple’s rapport has a warmth and immediacy that would appear to compromise the plan for semi-anonymity, but they maintain some distance nonetheless. With each meeting, the rules begin gradually to change, starting with his suggestion of dinner together and proceeding until she proposes they try standard-issue love-making for the first time. When they cross the boundaries into the territory of regular coupledom in an encounter in which the camera enters the hotel room for the first time, the resulting intimacy and emotional connection irrevocably alters their weekly trysts. . . .
The screenplay by Philippe Blasband develops its themes intelligently, particularly in the latter part, when the partners touch each other beyond the original terms of their agreement. Starting out playfully and gradually becoming more intense, the drama musters a quiet poignancy as the lovers begin to second-guess each other in ways that prove harmful to the happiness of both.

Belgium/France, 1999.
English subtitles.
Colour.
Anamorphic.
Dolby digital stereo.
81 mins.

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