xXx: Return of Xander Cage
The last forty minutes of the movie do come together in a pretty diverting way.
There is a fantasy scene in "Romance" where a woman's body is divided by a wall. On one side, from the waist down, she is in a brothel. On the other side, from the waist up, in a delivery room. What is the message of the scene? Don't be too sure you know. I know I don't. It isn't some kind of simplistic message linking childbirth with misuse by men. The woman having the fantasy isn't really against the activities on either side of the wall. Maybe the scene is intended as an illustration of her own confusion about sex.
The woman's name is Marie (Caroline Ducey). She could be the woman Freud was thinking about when he confessed he could not answer the question, "What do women want?" Marie asks herself the same question. She wants something, all right. She is unhappy with her boyfriend Paul, who refuses to sleep with her, and unhappy, too, with the sexual adventures she has. It's like there's a disconnect between her body and her identity. She does things that sometimes make her feel good, but she doesn't feel good because she has done them.
"Romance," written and directed by Catherine Breillat, became notorious on the festival circuit this autumn because it is an intelligent, radical film by a woman, and at the same time it contains explicit nudity and, as nearly as we can tell, actual sex. It is not arousing or pornographic, because the sex isn't presented in an erotic way; it's more like a documentary of a dogged woman's forced march toward orgasm, a goal she is not sure she values. Marie narrates the film herself and also seems to be reading pages from her journal; she is baffled by herself, baffled by men, baffled by sex. Even after climax, her hand closes on air.
Of course the film is French. It is said that for the French, wine takes the place of flirting, dining takes the place of seduction, smoking takes the place of foreplay and talking takes the place of sex. "Romance" is so analytical that you sometimes get the feeling Marie is putting herself through her sexual encounters simply to get material for her journal. These poor guys aren't lovers, they're case studies.