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).

Deborah Revy

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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11 Responses to Q: A Film by Laurent Bouhnik

  1. antyq says:

    I disagree. The movie is a kind of soft pornography. Real sex behind camera is typical for “adult movies” production. Bouhnik made a boring and amateur picture. Did the real sex is a new trend in cinema? Pretty sad…

    I don’t blame adult movies, neither erotic. But I think we don’t need pornography in feature movies. Do you know that this movie is classified as drama, romantic and even comedy? Almost no one classified as erotic (ok, Q is anti-erotic) or soft porno. What that means?

    Do you really think that real sex in “Q” is necessary? And what about other feature movies? Do we need sharing with others intimacy? Do they need to sell their intimacy?

    Where we are going?

    • Ray says:

      Film explores every aspect of human nature, why not sex? There are films that depict graphic violence. Is this necessary? Is horror necessary? The problem with your position is that it is only explicit sex that should be prohibited. Sex is a major part of the human condition. I cannot see why this shouldn’t be explored in cinema. Not in every film of course, but I think sex is a perfectly legitimate subject.

  2. I adored this movie – it took me completely by surprise, and I wish my French went beyond the schoolgirl level (although the subtitles seemed fine); I think there were elements in the subplot that didn’t make the translation cut. But the big revelation was Déborah Révy. I agree wholeheartedly with the points you made about her!

    My own review is over at, if you’re interested … and now I’m off to read the rest of your site! Loving it so far :)

  3. antyq says:

    I don’t want to prohibit explicit sex in general. This is called pornography or X-rated movies and if you want – just watch it. I’m opposed to pornography in mainstream movies. There is a thin line between documentary of real sex and playing sex by actors.

    We can explore human sexuality without real sex acts recorded by camera. Sex is very intimate and magic thing. Keep it for yourself and enjoy!

    I’m not interested in voyeuring. I’d like to foucs on the human life (including sexuality), but not on the sex of the actors trying to play their roles.

  4. antyq says:

    A note about explicit violence -I’m opposed, too. If I had to choose between sex and violence, I choose sex, especially love and passion. I do not like brutal movies. I’m searching for some more sublime than the satisfaciton of basic instincts.

    Still asking what about intimacy?

    Jenny wrote that “Q” isn’t porn. She’s right, if you think only about hardcore. In softcore pornography sex should be simulated, and precludes cunnilingus and fellatio. Softcore is a part of pornography and “Q” is more explicit than softporn. So what is this movie? A pornography. A recorded girl that really (not simulated using dildo) sucks dick is not a porn? Please…

    • Ray says:

      Yes, it’s porn by one definition, erotica by another. Like you I avoid overly violent movies, especially slasher and gore/horror. However, that is my choice and I do not propose censoring such films. The problem with standard porn is that it goes right to the explicit act. There is rarely any story and rarely any filmic artistry. There have been some notable exceptions: 9 Songs by Michael Winterbottom, Shortbus by John Cameron, the films of Catherine Breillat. I don’t propose that there should be no romance, only that there is a place to examine the complexities of human sexuality without the burden of censorship.

  5. antyq says:

    Ray, I don’t want to censorship these movies, but I’d like to classify them properly.
    If artists wants to show some story with reality and explicit scenes, they will do this without hesitation.
    Just name it properly – for example porno drama for “Q”, high-art porn for “9 songs”, and so on.

    Maybe you are wondering about censorship due to X-rating of these movies? Well.. It highly depends on the culture of a particular society. As I said at the beginning I’m opposed to censorship, but I’d like to see some kind of warnings, age limiting, etc. Without this porn may come to feature movies without any restrictions. Maybe it is today already…

    You mentioned “9 songs”.. What could I say? Beautiful picture of sex and only sex. Unfortunately not between Lisa and Matt, but Margo and Kieran. Their intimacy was sold, and watching it I felt like a voyeur.

    I think that unsimulated sex between actors is a point of controversy. I am not happy watching this growing trend in cinema, especially in “normal/common/regular” movies. Some years ago there was a thick line between erotica in mainstream cinema (highest rating R18+ for simulated sex) and underground pornography (X-rated, not simulated sex). But borders have been crossed, doors has been opened, everything mixes up in the cinema and our minds. Europe once again begins his conquest… The conquest of our souls, morals, customs and culture.

    • Ray says:

      Yes, there should be a proper rating. In Australia it was rated R18+ with a warning it contained real sex. In Australia the rating guide usually lists the reasons.

  6. antyq says:

    A small note. I forgot that you wrote about R18+. But “Q” is classified as drama in my country, same as “9 songs” (drama, romance or sometimes erotic drama). I disagree.

    In the opposite of “Q” R18+ must contain simulated sex. This is probably an another exception in classification. So when these exceptions become the rules…?

  7. antyq says:

    Yes, I read this. Thanks for sharing your point of view.
    It was pleasure to discuss with you.

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