YOU CAN'T REALLY think too hard about fucking. You may sing about it, laugh over it, eat around it, or wear it on your sleeve, but you can't really think about it without becoming perverted in the literal sense of the word. This is because the intellect is the only non-sexual organ of the body, and intellectuals hardly ever have sex.

Romance is a profoundly perverted movie, and not in the good way. An overwrought, leaden meditation on the self-destructive hysteria of one venturesome narcissist, Romance mines the same vein of fossilized repression that had the easily confused clamoring for more in Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut -- a film that similarly collapsed under its own weight.

The film tells a vague tale of Marie (Caroline Ducey), a woman denied sex by her boyfriend, who then ventures on a succession of experiences aimed at helping her collect her thoughts about fucking. Meandering from a large-boned Don Juan to a sweetly sodomizing headmaster to an inconsiderate buttfucker, Marie spends an inordinate amount of the film under the perceived knife of sexual conquest. She mutters such truisms as "I disappear in proportion to the cock that takes me" as she gives herself to loveless couplings, all the while thinking about what they might mean.

Romance commits many sins, the most unpardonable of which is preening before its own public image. Breillat gets a great deal of visual and dramatic mileage out of the artificial tension engineered by having a real star have real sex before an unblinking camera. Her casting of porn legend Rocco Siffredi as the Don Juan character caused no small scandal in Europe, which Breillat gleefully escalated, justifying the decision with cold, intellectual machismo. Penises, pussy-juice, and jism cavort about aimlessly in this film, smeared across the screen with all the panache of a misguided teenager showing his privates to the house pet.

Sadly, Breillat, like Kubrick, is too perverted an intellect to even get why her film is an architecture of repression as opposed to revolution (more akin to the senile ramblings of Luce Irigaray or Andrea Dworkin than its antecedents Last Tango in Paris or Belle du Jour). In the end, Romance is little more than a poorly-rendered portrait of the fucking French.