An Affair Of Love

Laura Clifford
Robin Clifford

A woman (Nathalie Baye, "The Return of Martin Guerre") and a man (Sergi Lopez, "Western") meet in a cafe. After some nervous introductory chitchat, they leave for a hotel where the woman has already reserved a room. This first successful meeting, a response to the woman's ad to act out a sexual fantasy, leads to regular weekly engagements, and maybe something unexpected in "An Affair of Love."

This French language film by Belgian director Frederic Fonteyne (screenplay by Philippe Blasband) is a compelling and unusual look at both human interaction and the nature of love. Fonteyne's protogonists never learn each other's name, address or phone number and are almost exclusively only seen in a Parisian cafe, the hotel, and separately in interview sessions.

The documentary style interviews show she and he sometime later, both looking different than they do in the flashbacks. She recalls that they met online and offered each other descriptions. He says he responded to her ad (he's kept the magazine as a souvenir) and they exchanged photographs. She believes they met once or twice a week for 3-4 months while he says they met weekly for half a year. They both remember the emotional aspects of their relationship, however, even more than the sex which presumably was the only basis for their relationship.

Speaking of sex, for a film who's original title is "A Pornographic Affair," there's not a lot of sex shown in the film. Usually, we're left behind their hotel room door. Significantly, the sex scenes which are shown, are really love scenes. The couple, who both refuse to divulge just what the fantasy that was being acted upon was, decide to 'make love.' "You mean the missionary position?" he asks, startled and clearly pleased.

The couple reach a critical point when an old man collapses in the hallway outside their hotel room. He begs them not to contact his wife, whom he hates. They accompany the man to the hospital, then listen to his wife (contacted by hospital authorities) grieve the loss of a man she knew detested her. For the first time, the outside world intrudes and it's with the heavy subjects of marriage and death.

Fonteyne and his photographer, Virginie Saint-Martin, keep things intimate. The color of the outside world leans to blues and grays, while the hotel interior is a vibrant, sexy red. Baye and Lopez are marvelously real together - their chemistry is deep.

"An Affair of Love" is a bittersweet small film where love is found by dispensing with sexual courtship.


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