A couple of months ago, I used the last of my Sunday morning film-watching slots on Sexual Chronicles of a French Family, a serious 2012 film taking a philosopical look at the sexual mores and practices of a contemporary French family stretching over three generations. At least that was what it was supposed to be, but the film does not have a high reputation, nor did I think much of it myself.
The film was supposed to be one of the most explicit films ever released outside hardcore porn, but it was soon clear that, despite its billing, I had hold of the North American version, with English subtitles, and heavily bowdlerised.
Curiosity will out, however, and I wondered what difference the uncut version made to the story or the experience. I wasn’t interested in buying another DVD, even if I could guarantee getting the original (I wasn’t that curious), but things can be found online if you know where to look and I have now added to the sum total of my human knowledge by watching the French version.
As far as I can tell, the film, in the sense of its minimal story, isn’t changed in any real way. This version was some six minutes longer, the extra made up mostly of two troilism scenes, more implied than depicted in the overseas version. The rest o the scenes are shot more explicitly: no shaded angles to obscure things like penises and vaginas, oral sex and penetration.
First time round, I joked that you could tell the film intended to be serious by what it didn’t show, namely nothing full-frontal, so the first and most obvious change was that penises were in with a vengeance: in hand, in mouth, in vagina. Every bloke in the film gets his out, soft or erect, and often more than once. And the sex is unsimulated.
Does this improve the film in any way? The standard defensive answer would be to say that it makes it more authentic, because nobody’s simulating. The film automatically becomes more open and honest. That’s if you’re then prepared to categorise a hardcore porn film as open and honest. As far as I was concerned, the explicit scenes served only to point up what they always point up, the pretension of the film’s ‘philosophy’.
Without sub-titles, I could not parse what was being said, which made ot much harder to follow the film except in its general course. I was glad I had seen an ‘English’ version first as it would have been very hard to pick up the drift if I had been coming to it new. Then again, I don’t remember much in the dialoguer that I would describe as invaluable: true, Romain didn’t come over as quite so much a whiner when you didn’t know what he was saying so there was at least one step up.
Nor, on the purely prurient level, was it any hardship to see even more of Valeria Maes or Adeline Rebeillard. But the explicit version only serves to satisfy curiosity and, once seen, can be left to be covered with dead leaves in the memory.