THE LAST MISTRESS (Catherine Breillat). 104 minutes. Subtitled. Opens Friday (July 25). For venues and times, see Movies. Rating: NNN
I have my best conversations with my girlfriend in bed. Weirdly, it's rare for filmmakers to give us decent dialogue in their bedroom scenes.
Thank goodness for Catherine Breillat, the provocative French filmmaker who loves to keep the lovers talking.
In 2001's Fat Girl, Fernando seduced Elena with words as much as with his hands. Now catch Vellini (Asia Argento) and Ryno (Fu'ad Ait Aattou) in The Last Mistress. Almost their entire relationship unfolds as a post-coital - or coital - conversation.
Breillat specializes in that kind of thing and in shooting her couples from odd angles, their limbs entangled in all kinds of crazy ways. The first time we see Vellini, she's horizontal and stays that way for the entire scene.
There's not much of a story here. Ryno, about to be married, can't shake Vellini, his mistress of 10 years, and that's fine with her.
As he recounts the minutiae of his affair to his fiancée's grandmother, the Marquise de Flers (a sly Claude Sarraute), we learn how the voracious Vellini has become the obsession that just won't go away.
Breillat is meticulous about the gorgeous 18th-century period detail - she wants us to grasp the fact that the French in those days were a helluva lot more sexually liberated than we are now, and the doddering marquise's open mind testifies to that.
But all that attention to period specificity and the intense dialogue in the bedroom sets us up for more than what Breillat's narrative delivers.
In the end, The Last Mistress is a bit of a tease.