I think each country has its own film identity. Meaning that they have a style and look that is their own. America with its tentpole films, England with period pieces, Korea with their horror, and France with its haughty and often sexual pictures. Curiosa is a perfect example of what I mean. A film that is full of sex and sexuality along with a tone exhibiting an “I am better than most” feel.
Based on real life events, this is a tale of love and sex. Set in 19th century Paris we get a love affair between visual artist and poet Pierre Louys (Niels Schneider – Sympathie pour la diable, Gemma Bovery) and Marie de Regnier (Noemie Merlant – Portrait of a Lady on Fire, La fete des meres). A love that is atypical and all-consuming.
1895, Paris. Pierre Louys is a young man with a reputation. As a poet who is on the edge of fame as well as a lady’s man. Conflict happens when he and his best friend Henri de Regnier (Benjamin Lavernhe – Comme un avion) fall for the same woman. That young woman is Marie de Heredia, the daughter of their mentor.
Marie, herself, falls hard and heavy for Pierre, but due to the man he is, she marries Henri. This hurts Pierre and so he flees to Algeria. While there he becomes involved with a wild and free local woman, Zohra (Camelia Jordana – Le Brio). The affair between the two is mercurial and held together by sex and a passion for erotic photography.
The three are thrown back together when Pierre, with Zohra in tow, returns to Paris after a year away. Soon Marie, who is in a loveless marriage with Henri, at least on her part, and Pierre are back in bed. Marie tells Pierre she loves him. He, as is his style, does not want to limit himself to one woman. Still, their affair continues. It is a game of hide and seek as they don’t want Henri to find out. It is a climate of secrets, passions and photography.
Director and co-screenwriter Lou Jeunet (first feature film) leads her cast through this dripping in sex romantic picture. Love and sexuality often told from the point of view of women. Also about how certain pockets of society at the time did not follow the rules; they marched to the beat of their own drums.
While there is plenty of sex here that sizzling aspect is counteracted by an often plodding pace. I am sure I am not the only one, for not just perverse reasons, who looked forward to the sex scenes as they put some pep into the film. Thankfully everything around the slow pace is top notch. This includes the sumptuous period costumes, an engaging score, beautiful sets, good acting by the main trio, and eye-catching cinematography.
A decent film with some high-quality moments, but overall something goes amiss here. The blame for that has to be heaped on the director’s shoulders as she is the steerer of the ship. The execution here tended to take the sizzle out of the love story.