France is a pretty good place to look when you’re after cinema that is sexy and stylish, and Anne Fontaine’s three-hander certainly fits that criteria. But as sexy as Nathalie… is (and it definitely is), what you get from this erotic drama is a lesson in subtlety and tension.
Learning that her husband might be unfaithful, a middle-aged woman hires a young prostitute to seduce him and report back on every detail of their relationship. Sure, the premise could have been plucked straight out of a porn film, but Nathalie tackles it with an entirely different approach. Gratuity is substituted for ambiguity – there isn’t a single sex scene; nudity is sparse – and so the eroticism comes from conversation and expression.
Nobody does that better here than Emmanuelle Beart, as the titular character. She is frighteningly sexy, not only in appearance but in speech and body language. Equally believable are Gerard Depardieu and Fanny Ardant as the loveless couple, Ardant in particular showing beautiful restraint in a complex role.
Nathalie… isn’t a film you’d expect to be winning any awards, and the story isn’t exactly groundbreaking. But in amongst a deluge of crass erotic films, this stands out thanks to intelligent filmmaking, great acting and just the right amount of French sexy.