Published Jul 01, 2000France has been making a lot of great films lately, many of which never get international distribution, but Une Liaison Pornographique is typical of the kind of French films that get exported to North America. It's intimate, character-driven, and sexy. It's also one of the warmest, and most human relationship dramas I've seen in a long time (the title is deliberately ironic).
This is a two-handed story that focuses squarely on an affair between a man (Sergi Lopez) and a woman (middle-aged stunner, Nathalie Baye) who anonymously get together to have purely recreational sex (names, ages, occupations, etc., are never exchanged). When they first meet each other at a cafe, they're both shy, but their serendipitous chemistry makes them both grin from ear to ear. The guy immediately wants to downgrade her expectations by saying, "You may not like me," but she won't have it, responding, "It's too late. I already do."
The tricky moral relativism of this situation (the film never introduces the cuckolded spouses as a factor) is, perhaps distinctively French, because I can't imagine an American movie that could be so guilt-free about the subject of cheating. Director Frederic Fonteyne and his screenwriter Philippe Blasband simply allow the relationship to develop over the course of several weekly rendezvous, and very quickly we see that recreation has been replaced with intimacy and love. There's a sex scene in the middle of the film that may even leave you a little breathless, not because it's over-heated and explicit, but because Baye and Lopez are actually acting and relating like genuine lovers.
There's an aspect of the structure of Une Liaison Pornographique that doesn't work so well. It employs a sort of "he said, she said" conceit wherein the main story is interspersed with post hoc interviews with the two characters, who each give a slightly different take on the details of the relationship. This technique doesn't really pay off until you get a God's-eye view of what goes unsaid in the bittersweet final scene - and believe me, you're made of stone if it doesn't break your heart.