An Affair of Love (French)

The French title — “Une liaison pornographique” — may have been more titillating, but “An Affair of Love” is a more apt description of what goes on in this ultra-modern but sweetly old-fashioned love story.

As recalled in separate interviews with the two participants, now broken up, we learn how He (Sergi Lopez) and She (Nathalie Baye) met through a sex magazine personals ad that she placed, wishing to fulfill a long-held sexual fantasy. They stubbornly refuse to tell us what the fantasy was; the camera discreetly waits in the hall when they enter a hotel room to do the deed.

The one-time fling becomes a rigorously scheduled weekly event, meeting in a nearby cafe and walking to the same hotel room. Slowly, they develop an actual affinity for one another, and in one important scene, they make love “normally,” the way two people in love would do it, without that fantasy thing, whatever it was, getting in the way. A relationship that was supposed to be nothing but sex, and that was supposed to happen only once, is beginning to foster real feelings. But can something that started so strangely ever last?

Obviously not, since we’re told from the first moment that it didn’t. So the question is, Why didn’t it? He and She never learn each other’s names, or anything about their lives away from the hotel. On what is their love based? The romantic notion of the film, as pointed out by an elderly couple they come in contact with one week, is that sometimes love can transcend all the factors we normally associate with it. It’s possible to love someone whom you never see, or whom you know nothing about, or who can do you no good from a practical standpoint.

Or, the cynic would say, it’s possible that this magnificent “love” they think they have is really just sexual infatuation disguising itself as love. Were I to know a couple like this in real life, that’s probably what I would tell them it was, if they asked me. But this movie couple, played with great sensitivity by two fine actors, convinces me that such a thing is possible. It’s a sentimental, tragically weepy story, deftly told and marvelously understated.

B+ (; R, a scene of graphic sexuality, some graphic sexual dialogue, some nudity, mild profanity.)