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Romance Review

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Deeply in love but frustrated by her boyfriend's sexual inhibitions, a teacher turns to other sources to fulfill her mounting desires.

★★★★★

In copulating 251 times while shooting the recently released documentary, Sex: The Annabel Chong Story, its star claimed to have been driven by a radical need 'to project the power of female sexuality'. Jasmin St Claire (300) and Kimberley Houston (620) intimated much the same sentiment before embarking on their own attempts at the world gangbang record.

Fascinatingly, porn stars are permitted such fanciful justifications. But when a female French filmmaker depicts one or two acts of penetrative sex in an arthouse exploration of the relationship between emotion and physicality, the more self-righteous on the intellectual fringes of filmdom throw up their hands in disgust.

Marie (Ducey) is desperately in love. But, frustrated by the frigidity of her underendowed boyfriend Paul (Stevenin), she turns to an Italian stallion (Siffredi), an S&M maestro (Berleand) and a casual pick-up (Reza Habouhossein) for her sexual fulfilment.

Partly inspired by Nagisa Oshima's Ai No Corrida, this audacious study of sex and sensibility also contains distinct echoes of Bertolucci's Last Tango In Paris and Luis Bueuel's That Obscure Object Of Desire. Director Breillat deserves credit for striding so boldly into what remains a largely male domain.

But while her visual approach is too detached to be erotic, her pronouncements are simply too predictable to be provocative. Only a disturbingly De Sadean brothel sequence and a live birth jolt the action out of its voyeuristic lethargy.

Breillat has certainly created a dangerously daring film. But whether she has succeeded in demolishing our preconditioned responses to lust and trust is another matter altogether.

A daring study of sex whose detached style doesn't quite shake the strange sense of voyeurism.

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