Romance was one of those films released when the British Board of Film Classification had relaxed its rules in the late 90's, allowing scenes of real sex to appear in 18 certificate films. But unlike the revelling in nihilism and violence (see the nasty Baise-Moi) these films seemed to consist of, Romance although not a light hearted romp is chiefly about hanky-panky. Following a basic strand in much erotica-a sexually ravenous female protagonist, her needs frustrated by a cold husband or partner, goes on a sexual odyssey to find fulfilment-Catherine Breillat brings in a heavy chunk of feminism, alongside the explicit sex. The main character portrayed by the very attractive Caroline Ducey, picks up a stranger in a bar (played by Rocco Siffredi, a real life porn actor), for casual sex; offers herself for money to another but is raped in the process and engages in heavy bondage sessions with an older man. She finds a small amount of satisfaction in the affair with Siffredi, finding far more in the kinky games with the older libertine; but only with childbirth and autonomy from men (but not hatred of men) does she find herself.
Romance has an unreal artful quality like a depiction of a sexual fantasy or dream. The most lurid sequence (out of many lurid sequences) is Ducey's fantasy of working in a brothel where her body is divided by a wall, offering the punters her legs and sex organs only, as the rest of her body is not visible. This is not a gritty, realist portrayal of relations between the sexes, but rather what goes on inside the protagonist's mind when she thinks about sex. One of the few films directed by a woman, Catherine Breillat's feminism makes a refreshing antidote to the male dominated world of erotica, but also it's important to add to the dour puritans going under the label 'feminist' in the UK.
Other erotic films in my DVD collection: