Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
2015 Tribeca Film Festival Line-Up Announced: James Franco’s ‘Adderall Diaries,’ Olivia Wilde In ‘Meadowland’ & More 2015 Tribeca Film Festival Line-Up Announced: James Franco’s ‘Adderall Diaries,’ Olivia Wilde In ‘Meadowland’ & More First Look: Joseph Gordon-Levitt As Edward Snowden In Oliver Stone's 'Snowden' First Look: Joseph Gordon-Levitt As Edward Snowden In Oliver Stone's 'Snowden' Drew Goddard To Write And Direct Sony & Marvel's 'The Spectacular Spider-Man'; 'Sinister Six' Scrapped Drew Goddard To Write And Direct Sony & Marvel's 'The Spectacular Spider-Man'; 'Sinister Six' Scrapped Premature Oscar Predictions: The 2016 Best Picture Contenders Premature Oscar Predictions: The 2016 Best Picture Contenders Watch: Original Short Film Version Of 'Whiplash' Starring Oscar Winner J.K. Simmons Watch: Original Short Film Version Of 'Whiplash' Starring Oscar Winner J.K. Simmons Watch: Nifty Video Examines David Fincher’s Subtle Repetition Of Framing And Blocking In 'Gone Girl' Watch: Nifty Video Examines David Fincher’s Subtle Repetition Of Framing And Blocking In 'Gone Girl' Sigourney Weaver Says She'll Be Playing A New Character In The 'Avatar' Sequels Sigourney Weaver Says She'll Be Playing A New Character In The 'Avatar' Sequels Margot Robbie Says 'Suicide Squad' Is More 'The Dark Knight' Than 'Avengers'; David Ayer Says Joker Is "Majestic" Margot Robbie Says 'Suicide Squad' Is More 'The Dark Knight' Than 'Avengers'; David Ayer Says Joker Is "Majestic" Kristen Stewart Joins Kelly Reichardt’s Untitled Montana Drama With Michelle Williams & More Kristen Stewart Joins Kelly Reichardt’s Untitled Montana Drama With Michelle Williams & More Watch: Paul Thomas Anderson's Sophomore Short 'Cigarettes & Coffee' Watch: Paul Thomas Anderson's Sophomore Short 'Cigarettes & Coffee' Another Oscar? First Look At Eddie Redmayne In Tom Hooper's 'The Danish Girl' Another Oscar? First Look At Eddie Redmayne In Tom Hooper's 'The Danish Girl' 'Prisoners' & 'Enemy' Director Denis Villeneuve To Helm 'Blade Runner' Sequel, Harrison Ford Confirmed To Return 'Prisoners' & 'Enemy' Director Denis Villeneuve To Helm 'Blade Runner' Sequel, Harrison Ford Confirmed To Return The 50 Best Films Of The Decade So Far The 50 Best Films Of The Decade So Far "I F*cked It Up": Neill Blomkamp Says He Wants To Go Back To 'Elysium' And "Do It Correctly" "I F*cked It Up": Neill Blomkamp Says He Wants To Go Back To 'Elysium' And "Do It Correctly" New Looks At Daniel Craig, Dave Bautista, And Lea Seydoux In 'Spectre' New Looks At Daniel Craig, Dave Bautista, And Lea Seydoux In 'Spectre' The 25 Best Films Of 2015 We've Already Seen The 25 Best Films Of 2015 We've Already Seen Best Of 2014: The 15 Best Movie Soundtracks Of 2014 Best Of 2014: The 15 Best Movie Soundtracks Of 2014 The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season From Worst To Best: Ranking The Films Of Hayao Miyazaki From Worst To Best: Ranking The Films Of Hayao Miyazaki

Review: 'Sexual Chronicles Of A French Family' Deals Less With Wandering Minds & More With Wandering Hands

The Playlist By Gabe Toro | The Playlist June 1, 2012 at 4:04PM

The opening shot of “Sexual Chronicles Of A French Family” is handheld footage of a young girl in class, her eyes darting back and forth as we hear a teacher discuss the day’s lesson. She briefly looks into the shaking camera before slipping her hand underneath her skirt. She wears no undergarment, as we see her fingers passionately move up and down, the camera becomes still as she pleasures herself. If you’re looking for “Snow White And The Huntsman,” you may be in the wrong theater.
5
Sexual Chronicles Of A French Family

The opening shot of “Sexual Chronicles Of A French Family” is handheld footage of a young girl in class, her eyes darting back and forth as we hear a teacher discuss the day’s lesson. She briefly looks into the shaking camera before slipping her hand underneath her skirt. She wears no undergarment, as we see her fingers passionately move up and down, the camera becomes still as she pleasures herself. If you’re looking for “Snow White And The Huntsman,” you may be in the wrong theater.

It’s this video that starts a chain reaction amongst an upper class French family, itself fraught with tension. With matters unspoken between Mom, Dad, Grandpa, their three handsome sons and one adopted daughter, it's implicit but unaddressed: their home has been invaded, conquered, taken over by sex, whether it be the bag full of condoms Dad constantly brings home, or the conspicuous motel visits of widower Grandpa.

Sexual Chronicles Of A French Family

This is killing the family’s youngest son, Romain, who sees the video that starts the film, part of an elaborate in-school challenge posed by members of the opposite sex. Film yourself masturbating, during class, and it’s the new millennial love letter. At eighteen, he feels that he should be sexually liberated, but he’s the only one in the family who isn’t receiving attention from the opposite sex. So when he unzips and begins recording himself, sloppy and obvious enough to be caught by a teacher, it’s more of an act of impotent self-expression.

The angered teacher brings his mother in to discuss this matter, but it only brings to life the fact that sex is such a tremendous part of everyone’s lives under her roof, yet unaddressed by all. Despite the educator’s ruffled feathers, she laughs. Romain deals with suspension, but his mother only smiles when she realizes he’s only pleasuring himself to pornography and flirting with a girl who has seen the video. Creation is important to this young man, so much so that once he reunites with his mother following the news of the suspension, he immediately requests the phone back. She complies, understanding the New Privacy: modesty is now a dependent on context. Later Romain will drop his pants for one of the video’s viewers, but immediately hide his member.

Sexual Chronicles Of A French Family

It’s Romain’s mother who is spurred to curiosity by this video. Taking another son to dinner, she asks directly about his sex life. She has a heart-to-heart with Grandpa, revealing his dalliances with a working girl. And, more importantly, she opens up to her husband again. When he is confused by her newfound sensuality, she immediately invents an affair she’s been having, clearly indulging in the erotic power play she’s engaged with, describing every minute detail to provoke extreme jealousy in her husband. He cannot resist.

In case you were wondering, “Sexual Chronicles of A French Family” is an extremely explicit affair. Directors Jean-Marc Barr and Pascal Arnold mostly (probably?) shoot simulated sex sequences, but the clever camera angles and obscured sexual organs only highlights the intensity of sexual encounters. It’s a film with several bared breasts and buttocks, but the majority of the heat is generated by fingernails on bare backs, curled toes in the air, intense, interlocked eyes. They’ve also, transparently, hired an extremely attractive cast, but they don’t shy away from the inelegant details of sex, the crumpled up tighty-whities between a man’s ankles, the taboo suggestions at inopportune moments, and most specifically, the sexuality implicit in the clumsy, very non-sexual act of changing clothes in front of a lover.

Sexual Chronicles Of A French Family

This is a pretty smart way to deflect from the fact that there isn’t much of a thought in this film’s head. Running a scant seventy-nine minutes, the majority of the film's runtime is devoted to hot and heavy lovemaking of a fairly photogenic nature. Ideal viewing for couples who enjoy subtitles (there should be no others), but without the nutritional value to examine what all this sex means within the context of their society. Within the characters' spacious, multi-layered home, they seem distant from the inner city where Romain attends school. Despite one taking on a decidedly working-class lover, the tension fraught in such a relationship never becomes an issue.

There’s a moment late in the film where one character announces to the rest of the family that they are bisexual. It’s a squandered moment as far as dramatic potential, as the film seems squeamish on the issue of same-sex dalliances despite a few moments of brief flirtation. But the response from the family is, essentially, “So?” It’s a sweet, understated reminder of how sex is ultimately a sign of self-expression, whether it be on camera, with multiple partners, isolated in a parking lot, or simply discussed. [B-]  
 

This article is related to: Sexual Chronicles Of A French Family, Review


The Playlist

The obsessives' guide to contemporary cinema via film discussion, news, reviews, features, nostalgia, movie music, soundtracks, DVDs and more.


Check out Indiewire on LockerDome on LockerDome

E-Mail Updates