Somewhere between its American title (An Affair of Love) and French title (Une Liaison Pornographique) lies the true nature of this film about a woman (Nathalie Baye) and man (Sergi Lopez) who initially meet for a one-time tryst.
Screenwriter Philippe Blasband uses an old device — the unseen interviewer — to question the participants about the nature of their affair. Director Frédéric Fonteyne smoothly intercuts their memories with telling scenes of their encounters at a Paris café and nearby hotel. Theirs is an anonymous affair initiated to fulfill a sexual fantasy (the precise nature of which neither of these confessors will reveal) which develops into something more.
Stripped of the usual routine of dating — the exchange of personal information mixed with hesitant flirtations — they dive right into a sexual partnership and discover a striking intimacy. As this affair becomes a routine part of their lives, they are faced with some complicated questions. Can they really know each other when they’ve avoided revealing even their names? Could what they’ve established move beyond the controlled environment they’ve established and bleed into their real lives?
An Affair of Love manages to be intensely romantic without the cloying sentimentality (swelling music, gushing expressions) that drowns so many Hollywood love stories. There’s a matter-of-factness to the affair and an ambiguity that’s common in French cinema, but there’s something about this one which breaks down the careful distance usually maintained in these films.
Baye (The Return of Martin Guerre, The Green Room) and Lopez (Western) are old enough not to turn every encounter into a grand passion, yet that’s precisely what the audience uncovers when allowed beyond the door of their hotel room. There’s a reason it’s called making love, and it’s not just to cloak the physical nature of desire.
What they’re expressing is something even Baye’s chatty character cannot quite put into words, an emotion so profound it can startle even the most hardened of hearts.
Showing exclusively at the Maple Art Theatre (4135 W. Maple, W of Telegraph). Call 248-542-0180.
E-mail Serena Donadoni, James Keith La Croix or Richard C. Walls at email@example.com.