starring Isabelle Huppert, Louis Garrel, Emma de Caunes, Joana Preis
screenplay by Christopher Honoré, based on the novel by Georges Bataille
directed by Christopher Honoré
starring Romain Duris, Lubna Azabal, Leila Makhlouf, Habib Cheik
written and directed by Tony Gatlif
by Bill Chambers Even after the Hays Office lost its stranglehold on the screen trade, mainstream American erotica remained a largely intellectual affair. Rather than try to get you off, films like Paul Mazursky's Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice and Mike Nichols's Carnal Knowledge were interested in examining the fallout from sex. Meanwhile, France was cranking out Sylvia Kristel movies, and the raincoat crowd could enjoy even such highbrow fare as Last Tango in Paris for long stretches. If the legit French sex cinema ultimately bore a closer resemblance to red-blooded American filth in the '70s (and not just ethically: the 'X aesthetic' was like dumbed-down nouvelle vague), it makes sense that it would chart a course parallel with stateside porno's gradual descent into the penetration abyss. But while the (d)evolution itself is an organic one born of desensitization, things have progressed along a more self-conscious path in recent years, with the incendiary work of Catherine Breillat, Gaspar Noé, and Michael Haneke helping to foster the impression of contemporary Gallic life as a veritable Sodom and Gomorrah.