Art Of Seduction: Unfaithful (2002)
gratifies the senses and seduces you with its bedroom eyes. Set in the bowels of Manhattan, a seductive Frenchman comes between an apparently happy couple, living with their eight year-old son in suburbia.
On the surface this is a story on seduction, sexual conquest and infidelity, but if we lift the mask off Unfaithful, what lies beneath is a cautionary tale on deleterious effects of a marriage gone stale.
Ed and Connie Sumner have a beautiful house in the suburbs. Though on the surface they seem to be in love with each other, after eleven years of marriage the elements of passion, surprise, freshness, and most importantly, genuine communication has faded.
Ed runs his own trucking company and is well off. Connie does charitable fundraising, which requires occasional commutes into New York City. On a blustery Manhattan afternoon, Connie desperately tries hailing a cab. She totters down the sidewalk, pushing down her dress and wiping the hair from her eyes. And like a force of nature, she collides into a stranger, Paul Martel, falls and scrapes her knee.
Paul is gorgeous, to say the least, and has a strong French accent to boot. The tall stack of books he was carrying back to his nearby loft are scattered over the sidewalk. He chases after Connie's belongings to no avail - the wind has them.
He invites her to his apartment for a band-aid. And this is where choice comes into play. Is the choice to enter the arena of temptation and the lair of a dark and beautiful man worth a band-aid for a scraped knee? Connie undoubtedly feels the rush of attraction. She feels a fire burn in her heart that has been dormant for quite some time.
The Lion's Den
And instead of politely declining the advances of this dark and mysterious man and asking him to hail a cab for her, she enters his domain "to clean up the scrape." Each step down the dark corridors that leads to his lair was an opportunity to turn back - to turn back for her husband - to turn back for her son - to turn back to her perfect, staid life in the suburbs.
But Connie enters Paul's delightfully charming Soho loft and is taken aback. Dozens of dark wood bookcases are replete with books -- beauty and brains. And seduction has begun. Paul wants Connie. It is the only reason why he invited her deeper within.
He makes small talk about being a book dealer. He talks about having a past in boxing. Paul makes her tea. When she places a call home to check in he slides an icepack onto her knee, startling her. Before she leaves he invites her to take a book.
She reads: Be happy for this moment. This moment is your life. Paul and his magnetism, the books and the punching bag, the hot tea and the cold icepack, the sweet nothing she now will never forget is too much to bear and she exits his loft. But she leaves his lair much heavier than when she came in and with the eternal words, "this moment is your life", echoing in her ears. Connie's choice to enter the arena of temptation will haunt her and challenge her deepest convictions.
Flirting With Danger
But she got out! Despite flirting with danger, despite playing with fire, she made it out with her marriage, her family, and code of values intact. Later that night, she tries to make love to her husband but their kid interrupts them.
The next morning she makes the choice to step back into the arena of temptation. She opens the book and Paul's calling card falls out. Against her better judgement, she makes the choice to call and thank him for his hospitality, again, opening the door to temptation.
Paul, a master of seduction, invites her over to thank him in person and "have some coffee." After a slight hesitation, she accepts. Again, this happily married woman enters Paul's lair. He asks her in French does she want to take off something. Lost in Translation, she gets nervous, thinking he wants her to take off her clothes.
He clarifies in English, would you like to remove your coat. He then helps her take off her coat, brushing her nape with his index finger. His hands stay busy and he guides her finger along raised dots, reading Braille, and entertaining her with a charming, made up anecdote. The story ends, but not Paul’s tight grip on her hand, and Connie excuse herself, leaving him standing perplexed.
Connie entered the arena of temptation twice and got out unscathed. Later, guilt-ridden she visits her husband at his office. Looking to make a connection and confirm her love, he gets distracted with business matters.
The Forbidden Dance
But where surprise, intrigue, danger, and excitement lies, the arena of temptation and deception, Connie reenters again and with a bag of muffins. Paul is playing some otherworldly, seductive music that catches her off guard. He invites her to slow dance.
She asks him how many girlfriends he's had. He says two. He then whispers in her ear, "your eyes are amazing -- you should never shut them -- not even when you sleep." He pulls her in tighter. She is entranced. And suddenly the music stops, breaking his spell. Snapping back to her senses, she again excuses herself, saying this was a mistake. He retorts, there is no mistake -- only what you do and don't do.
Again, Paul is left standing forlornly. But Connie makes a grave mistake. She played with fire three times and did not get burned. But when she reenters for her coat, Paul grabs her vigorously, lifting her off her feet.
And in a series of flashbacks we are taken into Paul's bedroom and watch as he breaks down the last of her inhibitions. Connie's belly trembles with nervousness as he pins her down. He opens her closed legs and kisses down her soft white columns. He slides his hand down her thighs but she stops him, holding on to what's left -- fighting surrendering. "Hit me," he tells her, realizing the pent up passion needs a catalyst to break free. She lightly hits him and then harder and harder and harder. And then suddenly she loses her grip -- raw passion erupts -- they go at it like wild animals.
If only she had left her coat in Paul's loft. If only she would have hailed the cab instead entering his lair for a band-aid. But behind the veil of a happily married woman with a beautiful house in the suburbs was a demoralized woman. A demoralization at the hands of abuse -- the abuse that happens when two people lose genuine communication in a relationship.
She is a woman who had expectations for her life and suddenly realized everything is sedate, respectable, and unadventurous. But now with Paul she's being wrestled down to the white sheets of his bed, roughed up and even spanked. Now with Paul she finds herself having lunch with a hand down the seat of her pants. Now with Paul she finds herself making love in a movie theater. Now with Paul she finds herself being pushed into a bathroom stall and ravaged.
A friend at lunch, unaware of Connie's amour fou, remarks, affairs always end disastrously. She goes on to say it's one thing she would undo if she could. Though Connie is alive again, her eyes wide open, at what cost is her new-found freedom? Is this freedom worth the prison of guilt when she looks into her husband's eyes?
And as Connie confesses to Paul, "You're the only thing in my mind when I wake up every morning. You're in my brain before I even open my eyes", the quote from Oscar Wilde comes to mind… "The one advantage of playing with fire…is that one never gets even singed. It is the people who don't know how to play with it who get burned up."
- Sexuality and 'Young Adam' (Movie Review)
Young Adam is a deliciously dark and erotically charged noir set in a steamy Glasgow of early 1950s. Joe is a rootless young drifter who finds work on a barge owned by macho yet emasculated Les and his repressed, neglected and frustrated wife Ella.
Does he turn himself in?
© 2013 Oswalda Purcell