The movie is brave for its time.
We must remember that in 1999, the internet was just a baby (or maybe a toddler). Emails were used primarily for business/academic purposes, MIRC chatrooms were the norm, “blog” is an unheard of word, there was no Facebook (Twitter was just a dream), internet porn was in the fetal stage.
On the other hand, video porn was available way back in the 1960s.
Romance by writer-director Catherine Breillat is not porn. Though, one can understand why a lot of people would think of it as such. It garnered XXX ratings in several countries. And it did feature explicit sex scenes, masturbation scene, cunnilingus, fellatio, BDSM, rape — you name it, it has it; except for bestiality, necrophilia and other conditions that may be considered pathologic.
The raciest thing it was accused of was featuring unsimulated sex between the lead actress Caroline Ducey and eye candy Rocco Siffredi.
Ladies and gentlemen (especially the gentlemen), take it from me, speaking as someone who has had sex in all manners of undress and in various positions before, Caroline and Rocco did not have unsimulated sex.
It is difficult, well at least uncomfortable for the man, to enter a vagina in that position. Trust me — or try it, whichever you prefer.
That must be the reason why, as Roger Ebert said in his review, “At a screening at the Toronto Film Festival there was some laughter, almost all female, but I couldn’t tell if it was nervous, or knowing.”
Roger, darling, the women were laughing because it was funny. Rocco and Caroline could not have had sex, like penis-in-vagina sex, because if they had done so, Rocco would have sued Catherine Breillat for a broken (or fractured) penis — which medically, is not an impossible condition.
The female audience may also have been laughing at the BDSM scene between Francois Berleand and Caroline Ducey. Their second BDSM encounter is really funny. Again, try it, to understand why.
It has been 18 years since Romance was screened. Thank God, I did not see it in 2012, otherwise, I would have had some seditious ideas (knowing how impressionable I was) and G would probably have had a nasty headache on his hands.
In any case, between 1999 and 2017:
- the World Trade Center was destroyed by terrorists,
- in a certain Southeast Asian country: Erap Estrada was booted out of office, GMA became a fake president for 9 years and Noynoy Aquino became the highest leader in a country despite being single and accused (probably unjustified) of autism (what is so wrong with being autistic, I have no idea, people with Asperger’s can lead perfectly happy and productive lives), then he was succeeded by self-confessed murderer, Rodrigo Duterte (proving that the Philippines as a nation is the one with mental disability)
- Friendster then Multiply then Facebook then WordPress then Twitter then Instagram were born … yipee!!
- Sheryl Sandberg became a CEO of Facebook, ditto for Marissa Mayer of Yahoo,
- Sex and the City re-defined how we see women who do (and I mean “do” in all sense of the word, prurient or otherwise), Girls finished 6 seasons and it redefined how we see women (or girls) interact with each other and the men (or boys) in their lives
- Fifty Shades of Grey by EL James became (undeservedly or not) a book and movie phenomenon (in the financial sense),
- the Arab Spring happened,
- Rocco Siffredi retired from porn (2004), then returned to porn (2009), then retired again (2015)
A lot of things can happen in 18 years.
When Romance was screened and Roger Ebert watched it, he had this to say:
“… the film has an icy fascination. Perhaps it is a test of how men and women relate to eroticism on the screen. I know few men who like it much (sure proof it is not pornographic). Women defend it in feminist terms, but you have the strangest feeling they’re not saying what they really think.”
It is my opinion that the reviewer sounded defensive or maybe baffled? I cannot blame the guy — he is a male, after all.
I wonder, though, what he will say about it now.