INTERVIEW: Fonteyne's Pornographic "Affair of Love"
by Anthony Kaufman
Okay, so it’s not actually pornographic. But the original title of Belgian director Frederic Fonteyne‘s second feature was “Une Liaison Pornographique” (“A Pornographic Affair”) before distributor Fine Line changed it to “An Affair of Love,” no doubt to avoid any misunderstanding among the culturally over-delicate. Though a smart irony is lost that establishes the film’s tensions between true love and pure sex, one must praise Fine Line for being brave enough in the first place to acquire the small French-language film out of last year’s Toronto Film Festival.
Starring two of France’s best actors, the great Nathalie Baye and Spanish-born newcomer Sergi Lopez, the film concerns two nameless singles, referred to in the film’s credits simply as Her and Him, who meet by way of the personal ads and engage in a mysterious relationship, at first simple, then made multi-layered by the inevitable complexities of human emotion.
Written by Fonteyne’s long-time friend and novelist Philippe Blasband, “Affair” is a feather in the cap of Belgium’s film industry, which except perhaps for Alain Berliner‘s “Ma Vie En Rose,” hasn’t had a successful export in years. Prior to opening the New Directors/New Films festival last March in New York, Fonteyne spoke to indieWIRE’s Anthony Kaufman about the film’s title, sex, intimacy and capturing the moment. The movie opens Friday in New York and Los Angeles.
indieWIRE: Can you talk about the title change?
Frederic Fonteyne: In French, it’s “Une Liaison Pornographique.” I like the title because for me, it’s about two people who meet because they have a sexual fantasy and in the beginning, they’re not looking for love. So it was important for me to settle that in the title. But also, from the beginning of the writing, with Philippe Blasband, we knew that we wouldn’t show any pornography in the film. That was the idea. For us, it was quite clear that if you put the word “pornography” in the title. . . I mean, I’ve never seen a pornographic film with that word in the title, so I was aware that people would be curious, and say, what is it about, but know that it’s not pornography. But that word is quite strange. Because people don’t want to see what’s behind it. In France, the title was good and not good. Because people said, oh no, not another film about sex. I suffered a bit about that. So in Italy, they also changed the title and called it, “A Private Relationship.” And it did well. I just want people to go see the film and I don’t want people to be afraid because of the title or misunderstand the title for people who would like to see sex. I made a real film with a lot of different feelings, also eroticism, but not only this. It’s also a film speaking about love, so why not?
iW: So who came up with “An Affair of Love”?
Fonteyne: It’s Fine Line. I think the distributors in each country; maybe, they know better than we what is possible. Maybe in New York, it was not such a big problem. Maybe, in other cities, it could be.
iW: In that title, “A Pornographic Affair,” it does cut to the irony of the situation and unfortunately, that’s lost.
Fonteyne: That’s true. But you have to have seen the film to understand the title, so that’s the strange thing about it.
iW: There’s a line in the movie, “It’s not like sex in the movies.” How much were you playing with this idea of “sex in movies” when making this film?
Fonteyne: Usually, when I see films, it’s true that there’s the film and then a sex scene. And the things are separated. There’s the people in love and then suddenly, you have music and dissolves, then just sex, and after that, there’s something else. There may be one sex scene where they make love normally in my movie, but for me, the eroticism is all over the film. Even in the caf