This film was a surprise. I’m going to Paris in just over a month and I want to polish up on my French. So I thought what better way than to watch a few French movies? I stumbled across ‘Q’ by Laurent Bouhnik whilst browsing for new releases. I had never heard of it. It was rated R18+ with a warning that it included scenes of ‘real’ sex. And given that I am familiar with the ground breaking films of Catherine Breillat (Romance, Fat Girl and Anatomy of Hell) I was immediately intrigued.
Now, after watching it, I am very impressed. And yes, it does contain real sex. In fact all of the sex is real – and explicit – but I would not call it pornographic. To me it’s a mature and honest look at the complexities of sexual desire (and thankfully it passed the Australian censor uncut).
First a spoiler alert, because I reveal the plot.
The story is about sexual desire and the way the various characters understand their own desire and negotiate realising it. It focuses on two couples through the primary agency of Cécile (played bravely and brilliantly by Déborah Révy).
Cécile is sexually adventurous and something of an exhibitionist, however she is suffering from a period of sexual boredom with her sometime partner. She attempts to reignite her sexuality through a series of risky encounters. The second couple form part of a larger group of friends. In their case the girl has been raised by very conservative parents and is reluctant to to consummate her relationship with her boyfriend. Through this device the film explores the sexual desires of both the various female and male characters. But far from being a film about erotic fulfillment it is really about sexual frustration. There are a number of explicit scenes (fellatio and hand jobs) that are stopped midpoint. In one scene Cécile’s boyfriend does not respond to her massaging his penis and pushes her away. In another scene they have sex (and yes, the penetration is real) and she complains that she feels nothing.
This is why the film is not pornographic, despite the explicit sex, because it is not about masturbatory arousal. In fact in many ways this film is anti-erotic. Any arousal is short lived by the emotional reactions.
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