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[whitespace] 'An Affair of Love'
Another Tango in Paris: Nathalie Baye and Sergi Lopez tryst the days away in 'An Affair of Love.'

Beyond Kink

What begins as pure sex in the afternoon soon becomes 'An Affair of Love'

By Nicole McEwan

'IT WAS A PORNOGRAPHIC AFFAIR: It was sex, nothing but sex, only sex," says the well-composed woman speaking to the camera. Her air of detachment surprises her interviewer, unseen offscreen. Though she is cloaked in indifference now, her words and memories soon strip away her cool veneer, rendering her naked. Naked the hard way, one might say, because as hard as it to disrobe in the Golden Age of the Hardbody, it's even harder to lay your soul bare--which is precisely director Frédéric Fonteyne's point.

Released in Europe under the irony-tinged title Pornographic Affair, An Affair of Love is an adult film in the purest sense, for only a well-seasoned mind (and heart) will appreciate the subtleties of the situation it so vividly portrays. By presenting a scenario in which two people clinically attempt to divorce intimacy from sex, and sex from love, this mock documentary places the complexities of human nature under an often mesmerizing microscope.

Two strangers (identified only as him and her), who meet weird, connect through an ad in the back of a porno magazine, hoping to fulfill a (shared) specific fantasy. Because the publication is quasi-literary, heavy on erotica and fetish stories, there is an implicit suggestion that their mutual desire is of the kinkiest variety. No matter, because perversely, we never learn the details. And as the film unfolds, we care less about this potentially sordid act and more about its emotional fallout.

The woman (Nathalie Baye) is, as they say, of a certain age--her classical beauty enhanced by the confidence only experience can bring. The man (Sergi López) is younger, boyish even, despite his burly physique. The preliminaries are surprisingly brief. She, the aggressor, has already booked the hotel room. Mildly shocked, certainly intrigued, he meekly follows. At the hotel, the camera glides behind them through a tawdry red hallway, then idles at the front door until they emerge. The technique is effective, in that it sparks the imagination, ostensibly coaxing the viewer to "insert fantasy here." Baye's face on their emergence is a vision of pure sexual liberation, just one example of her frequently wordless, perfectly modulated performance. She is ebullient, as though some weight has evaporated from her shoulders. Lopez is pensive, as though somehow he has absorbed what she cast off. Same room, same sex, same people, the scene suggests. Same response? Not nearly.

A weekly habit emerges. Then one day, they decide to share a meal. Because there is no sexual subterfuge, they are able to enjoy each other without pretense. Yet, taking their tryst outside the bedroom puts their "arrangement" on shaky ground, quickly blurring the lines between "sex" and "love" and forcing them to confront the growing complexity of their relationship. Effectively structured as a series of separate interviews, interspersed with flashbacks, An Affair of Love plays out like a relationship autopsy conducted by a stranger. Because we are privy to both sides of the story, only we fully comprehend the simple blunders and misunderstandings that tear at the lovers. They were in love, all right, but it just wasn't as easy as all that. Of course, it rarely is.

An Affair of Love (R; 80 min.), directed by Frédéric Fonteyne, written by Philippe Blasband, photographed by Virginie Saint-Martin and starring Nathalie Baye and Sergi Lopez, opens Friday at the Camera 3 in San Jose.

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From the August 31-September 6, 2000 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2000 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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