Les liaisons perverses

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Les liaisons perverses (1975) follows Hélène’s (Mona Heftre) affair with a photographer (Pierre Oudrey) who shoots pornographic layouts for adult magazines. Hélène’s bourgeois attitudes are quietly subverted as she embarks on a journey of sexual awakening. However, not all is as it seems because Hélène’s husband Phillip (Jean Roche) has a bigger part to play in the affair than it initially appears.

In cinematographic terms Les liaisons perverses is a pretty standard erotic drama for the time. Director Jean-Paul Savignac is competent enough, staging some of the sex scenes in unconventional ways. One of the best examples of this come early on in Hélène’s affair where Savignac positions the camera outside of a window to capture the “action” as the shutters are continuously blown open and shut by the wind. But moments such as this are far from the norm in Les liaisons perverses.

Les liaisons perverses is also very playful in its eroticism, clearly drawing on director Richard Lester as an influence. Savignac allows the narratives of the various photo spreads to be realized in the film as quasi-dream sequences. These episodes of pure fantasy offer much needed variation and deviation from the familiar narrative of the young house wife embarking on an affair. Savignac stages these sequences with the campy humor and kineticism of Lester’s early sixties output.

The greatest narrative deviation from genre convention in Les liaisons perverses comes in the form of its twist ending. It’s revealed that Hélène and her husband were simply using her affair as a device in their own elaborate and kinky role play. The perspective and even the characters that directed the film’s plot are discarded with the same passionate abandon with which Hélène began her “affair”. It’s a genius way to further empower Hélène (who was already an unusually strong female protagonist for this type of picture) that also celebrates more unconventional kinds of marriage.

In the intervening years since its release Les liaisons perverses has fallen into obscurity. Les liaisons perverses is one of those films that hasn’t had a home video release since the heyday of the VHS tape. Les liaisons perverses is an above average film of its ilk that deserves some kind of restoration and re-release.