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Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 6/4/02

An Affair of Love
1999 (2001) - Fine Line Features (New Line)

review by Dan Kelly of The Digital Bits

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

An Affair of Love

Film Rating: B+

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): A/B/C-

Specs and Features

81 mins, R, letterbox widescreen (2.35:1), 16x9 enhanced, full-frame (1.33:1), single-sided, dual-layered (no layer switch), Snapper case packaging, theatrical trailer, cast and crew filmographies, original theatrical website on DVD-ROM, film-themed menu screens, scene access (12 chapters), languages: French (DD 5.1 and 2.0), subtitles: English, Closed Captioned

"There was an implicit rule from the word go: no mention of our lives."

An Affair of Love tells its story in flashback. Two people, a woman (Nathalie Baye) and a man (Sergi López), talk separately with an interviewer about an affair they had together. Their individual recollections of minor details vary slightly - how frequently they saw each other, the duration of the affair, how they met - but they both agree that the intent of the meetings was purely for physical reasons. They wanted to have anonymous, no-strings-attached sex with a stranger: someone who knew nothing else about them and would perform their particular fantasies without hesitation. "It was a pornographic affair," she tells the interviewer, almost as if she's trying to convince herself it was nothing more to her. We can already see, even this early on, that the two are more willing to tell the camera than they were each other that, ultimately, they wanted more from each other.

The two make a conscious effort to keep the outside world - the real word - out of their encounters. Anything that could divert their attention from their fantasies (even each other's names) is unwanted. They meet weekly at a specified café, before checking into a nearby hotel. When an old man collapses outside the door of their hotel room, they're forced to re-examine the nature of their relationship. Can they go on as just sex partners, or do they want something more? The two discuss their sexuality with each other and do so naturally, without the affects of conventional movie sex talk. I appreciate the fact that neither of the leads are stunning Hollywood types. Baye and Lopez are each good-looking, but they're not perfect. They're in their forties (ancient by conventional American film standards) and neither one of them is in outstanding physical shape. He confesses to her that he likes the physical appearance of a woman who's had children. They even go so far as to discuss the age-related aches and pains caused by two sexual encounters in one day.

I can see the appeal of making an American version of An Affair of Love. Perhaps an American audience would relate to it better if there were actors in it that they recognized and felt comfortable with. But I can also see the temptation to make it something it is not. Even the title was changed for release here. The direct French to English translation is A Pornographic Affair. An American film would want a happier, tidier ending and would more than likely try to make the sex scenes more illicit and "steamy." Real human desire and sexuality is discussed more than it is put on display in An Affair of Love. In the end, it's a more effective way of addressing the movie's frank sexuality. Director Frédéric Fonteyne avoids the temptation of extended, overdone sex scenes and plays it smart - he knows that our own imaginations are better, more reliable interpreters of our desires.

New Line gives you the option of watching An Affair of Love in either an anamorphic widescreen or full-frame transfer. The 2.35:1 widescreen image is a first-rate effort and presents a near flawless image. Color reproduction is precise, revealing the deep reds of the hotel in perfect detail with no bleed. In addition to good color detail, contrast is also excellent and black levels are properly maintained. Edge enhancement is not an issue and compression artifacting is minimal at worst. Flesh tones are impeccable and provide striking, natural close-ups of the actors. An Affair of Love was shot on Super 35, and the full-frame presentation takes the soft matting away from the bottom of the screen to reveal more image. The same does not apply to the sex scenes - a traditional pan and scan job was done on these scenes, lopping off nearly half the picture. It looks fine, but the intended aspect ratio of the film was the 2.35:1 image, so watch that one. The film looks all the better for it.

You'll get two versions of the original French audio track - one in full Dolby Digital 5.1 and the other a Dolby Surround track. The 5.1 track is the stronger of the two, but it's still an understated mix that wisely focuses on the dialogue between the two characters. The film has only a handful of music cues, but they're spread across the rear surround channels, which are otherwise used for soft ambient effects. Use of the .1 LFE channel is somewhat thin, but manages to add some strength to the soundtrack. My only gripe in this department is the subtitles. They're burned into the image - you can't manually turn them off. There's bound to be people who don't need the subtitles, and it's going to be a distraction for them. It's also problematic if you have to watch the film with the Closed Captioning on, as the two different subtitling options will clash with each other. It's a minor issue, but a valid one nonetheless.

The main disc has only two real features - the theatrical trailer (in 1.85:1 anamorphic) and brief bios of the two principle actors and the director. New Line has also included the film's original theatrical website on DVD-ROM. Normally, I'm not too impressed with ROM or printed information, but the website information gives some valuable detail about the making of the film, along with a few production stills. It's worth at least one viewing.

An Affair of Love is a good movie that didn't find much of a release in the United States. It's a compelling character study of two people who, good or bad, are willing to fully explore their sexual desires with each other. If you like French cinema or if films like Last Tango in Paris, that deal with adult sexuality in blunt terms, you may want to give it a try. New Line's done a worthy job of making it look and sound good for home video. Quibble with the subtitles aside, this is a fine movie-only DVD.

Dan Kelly
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