Despite their individual box-office success, the exceedingly mild Bdsm frolics of the “Fifty Shades” films did little to revive Hollywood’s interest in the kind of frosty, high-style erotic drama that was de rigueur in the early 1990s — around the time that French writer Annie Ernaux
scored some international renown with her sexually frank autofiction novel “Simple Passion
.” French filmmakers’ loyalty to such material has remained more steadfast, however, so it’s somewhat surprising that it’s taken nearly 20 years for Ernaux’s provocation to reach the screen. Finally, Franco-Lebanese director Danielle Arbid
has taken a gutsy stab at it, with an imperfect but glassily compelling study of obsessive, finally debilitating desire that honors its source with an unblinking female gaze.
The result, publicly premiering in San Sebastian after being selected for this year’s cancelled Cannes fest, plays something like Catherine Breillat
let loose on E.L. James
, with all the sensual highs and occasional,