DIRECTED BY: Jean-Claude Brisseau
FEATURING: Carole Brana, Etienne Chicot
PLOT: Sandrine, bored with sex and life in general, takes a year off from the rat race
and meets some libertines who explore the intersection of sex, hypnosis and religious ecstasy.
WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: This retro sex-drama only flirts with weirdness at the very end. Considered as a conventional film, it’s neither profound, erotic, nor even very interesting.
COMMENTS: A post-revolutionary examination of the sexual revolution, À L’aventure feels like a talkier, less exotic Emmanuelle (1974). The plot, involving a beautiful French woman who ditches restrictive monogamy and explores the limits of sexuality—including masturbation, S & M, group lesbian sex, and hypnosis-aided orgasm—seems torn out of a middlebrow softcore “art” film from the early 1970s. Shout-outs to Freudian psychoanalysis, Indian maharishis, past-life regression therapy and other forms of esoteric knowledge confirm the initial impression that À L’aventure is the work of an aging hippie nostalgic for the days when sexual repression and conformity could be blamed for all society’s ills. A celebration of that sort of lost naïveté could have made for a fun movie, but for Jean-Claude Brisseau, pleasure is a very serious and unfulfilling business. The ecstasy seekers in À L’aventure rarely smile, and in fact spend most of the movie wearing dour, serious expressions and furrowed brows, as if they were attending a lecture on modern physics. And about half of the time they are, thanks to the presence of a part-time taxi driver and park bench philosopher who uses his screen time to explain the origins of the universe and the sociological significance of panties. The cinematography is beautiful when it focuses on the French countryside, and the sexual choreography can be arousing, but overall the project is off-puttingly pretentious. Brisseau’s attitude towards women is subtly disquieting, as well. In the erotic scenes men are marginalized and women fetishized; he prefers to film lesbian sex. His obsession with the female orgasm is strange; he uses it as a symbol of unobtainable ecstasy, seeming to forget that about half his audience is capable of obtaining it. On the surface, Brisseau appears to worship women, but there’s something in his attitude reminiscent of an 18th century European admiring the Noble Savage; he seems more interested in romanticizing female sexuality for his own ends than he is in exploring or understanding it. In terms of its ideas, the film is confused and uncertain, but not entirely vapid. The theme of freedom versus convention is treated more subtly than one might expect; at the end Sandrine’s sexual adventure leave her no more satisfied than when she set out, and there is a suggestion that the erotic/hypnotic experiments may have breached limits woman was not meant to transgress. But in the end, the film’s fatal flaw is simple: it’s dull and talky, and the talk doesn’t lead anywhere enlightening. Only an overeducated Frenchman could make sex this boring.
À L’aventure is the third movie in a trilogy about female sexuality that began with Choses Secrètes (2002) and continued in Les Anges Exterminateurs (2006). After the first film, Brisseau was criminally charged with sexual harassment against two of his actresses, receiving a fine and a suspended sentence.
WHAT THE CRITICS SAY: