[SEXUAL CHRONICLES OF A FRENCH FAMILY screens as a Cleveland Cinematheque at the Capitol Theatre offsite event Thursday August 9th at 9:15 pm. No one under 18 admitted.]
Review by Bob Ignizio
When 18 year old Romain (Mathias Melloul) gets caught taking cell phone video of himself masturbating in class, it causes his mother Claire (Valérie Maës) to think about how much (or how little) sex is discussed in her family. As she says to her husband Hervé, “...when it comes to sex, we leave them in the dark. Apart from AIDS, birth control.... when it comes to sexual fulfillment, we leave them all on their own.” Which is probably how Romain, his brother Pierre (Nathan Duval) and adopted sister Marie (Leila Denio) would prefer it. Even Romain's grandfather Michel (Yan Brian) is not spared a frank discussion about his love life now that he is a widower.
Despite numerous semi explicit sex scenes covering a wide range of proclivities, SEXUAL CHRONICLES OF A FRENCH FAMILY is a surprisingly dull and unerotic film. It's all shot in a very earnest, matter of fact style that screams “arthouse film”, but there's not enough depth here to warrant such an approach. The film's message that openness about sex within the family unit is ultimately a positive thing is conveyed effectively, but once the point is made there isn't much here. There are a few moments of dry humor, but about half the film's relatively short running time consists of the sex scenes, which makes it hard to argue they aren't the main selling point. That being the case, one can't help but feel those scenes should at least be visually interesting, if not actually, you know, hot. Such is not the case here, though.
It's sad, because there are definitely people who don't care for hardcore pornography but who would like a well made, well acted erotic film. SEXUAL CHRONICLES is certainly better than the late night cable cheese fests that generally fill that need, but it doesn't come close to realizing the full potential of erotic cinema. Then again, not much does these days, so if you're looking for a little naughty fun on the big screen that won't have your date thinking you're a complete pervert, this might do the trick. 2 out of 4 stars.