Posts Tagged “Nathalie Baye”

AN AFFAIR OF LOVE
1999

December 11, 2008
Netflix DVD
France / Switzerland / Belgium / Luxembourg
French
80 Minutes — September 4, 1999
Drama / Romance
Frederic Fonteyne
Nathalie Baye [And The Band Played On; Venus Beauty Institute; Catch Me If You Can; Tell No One]
Sergi Lopez [To Die (Or Not); With A Friend Like Harry; Dirty Pretty Things; Pan’s Labyrinth]

An off-camera voice interviews a man and woman separately. They are discussing a past “relationship”. Relationship is in quotes because the definition of what they are as a couple is in a state of constant flux. While discussing this past fling, they both appear to be looking back with warm feelings.

The woman, Her (because they don’t exchange names), puts an ad in a sex magazine. The man, Him, actually put his copy of the magazine into a protective sleeve, which he displays with pride to the interviewer. “I guess I’m just a romantic, ” he declares. We know where this is going, don’t we? Two swingers meet up to have sex and then stop meeting up to have sex. But not so fast.

She mentions that there has always been a fantasy that she’s never been brave enough to ask past lovers. She puts it in the advertisement. He is not a casual reader of the magazine–in fact, he claims that this was the only time he responded to a personal ad. As so often happens when recalling something from years past (she has dyed her hair black and he has taken to wearing a goatee when we meet them in the present day), the details are fuzzy. He remembers sending a photo in response, she claims to have had no idea what he looked like.

They nervously meet at a cafe in Paris. There is small talk. There are few questions. She says, a bit too matter-of-factly “I’ve reserved a room down the street–is that okay?” He is excited by her assumption. She is drinking coffee and as she finishes to put on her coat, he orders a cognac, appearing to be in no particular hurry. She goes into some small talk about being young and wanting a lover who was hairy only to discover that she’d been “hoodwinked” when they turned out as hairless as the rest. She is not being cool. He is not being cool.

It needs to be mentioned here that the two leads are being played by Nathalie Baye and Sergi Lopez. Lopez is best known for the fantastic thriller WITH A FRIEND LIKE HARRY. He’s clearly middle-aged and looks like a French, poor-man’s George Clooney. Baye is one of those beautiful women who is allowed to grow older, but remain incredibly alluring and sexual, in role after role. She was recently seen as the lawyer in TELL NO ONE. I’ve just looked up her age and if correct, then she certainly wears her 51 years well on screen as a sexually alive, adventurous and frank woman. Someone Dan Savage would call “GGG.” Why American actresses are not afforded the same opportunity is incredibly annoying. Baye has entered her most erotic stage of life. It’s nice (not to mention exciting) to be able to watch it on film.

Back to the plot. These two middle-agers, still attractive, well-read, witty conversationalists–do, indeed, head over to the hotel. The camera lingers on the procedure for checking into a hotel frequented by short-term guests. The clerk’s expression, the credit card transaction, the key exchange, the walk to the room. This is done slowly and deliberately. We arrive at their front door. They go in, but we are left in the hallway. The hallway is bathed in low-lighted red. There is natural light coming from below the door. But we don’t get to go in to see what happens. And that move becomes genius later on.

The two emerge out onto a crowded dusk Paris street. Not sure what to do to continue this “situation” and afraid that perhaps they’d be the only one wanting a second round, they are silent. They agree that, if interested, they will meet at the same cafe the following Thursday. She gets on the Metro, he into his car. They are not smiling, exactly, as they move away from each other, but they are certainly not ashamed of what just happened.

The next shot shows Her in the same cafe, finishing up a coffee, and getting ready to go. He clearly didn’t want to see her again, but then he shows up, a bit ruffled due to traffic. They have a bit more detailed conversation. They laugh a little more. To the interviewers she says, “there was no posturing, no trying to impress. We already knew each other sexually–the conversation was easy and much more honest.” I’m paraphrasing, obviously. So begins a regular meeting between these two people. Always at the same cafe and always leading to the same hotel, where by now the clerk can hand over a key much more quickly.

They recall this stage a bit differently, she says they met several times a week, he remembers it more like every other Thursday. The details are not important. What is important is how they go from a purely sexual, no-names-ages-occupations-needed casual hookup, to becoming de facto partners for each other. They get drinks and sometimes dinner afterwards. He never drives her home, and they never exchange information.

Can these two continue to meet for sex without falling in love?

One day, she changes everything, by nervously uttering, “let’s make love this time?” “What do you mean?” “The regular way” “You mean, missionary?” “No, I like to be on top, not exactly dominating, but in charge.” “OK,” he says. And this time as they head to the same hotel, they are giggling like teenagers. And this time we get to go into their room with them and see how it’s blue and white color is a happy backdrop. The scene is non-nude, but highly erotic. “Do you mind if I talk during?” she asks.

Something has clearly changed between them. And somehow between characters and we viewers.

This is one of the best portrayals of adult sexuality and love I’ve ever seen. Not Hollywood sex and love, but realistic. The way feelings can change in mid-sentence, the way people are brave with each other up until they can’t be anymore. She mentions that in the movies, sex is either heaven or hell, never in the middle. In life, there is a lot of sex in the middle. If you’ve ever stopped to realize that almost all onscreen sex scenes, including a couple’s first, begin with passionate kissing while clothes are torn off, acrobatic lovemaking with not a hint of clumsiness (no hair pulled, no heads bumped, no need to verbalize movement), a to-the-second mutual climax, followed by one of those bedsheets that goes up to his stomach, but also up to her shoulders.

We go to the movies to see people better looking than we are do things more exciting than we do, but I could do without another one of these by-the-numbers sex scenes.

This film has exactly two characters. They are flawed and perfect, like we are. They are trying to figure out how much of their hearts to give this relationship that started in the back pages of a porno magazine. Will they fall in love? Are they already in love? Will they say this to one another?

This is what an adult relationship film should be. Go see it.

6.7 Metacritic
7.0 IMDB

An Affair of Love @ Amazon

AN AFFAIR OF LOVE

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Written by Michael W. Cummins