As a reviewer, I watch a lot of movies: some good, some bad, many so-so. Perfect Love falls into that fortunately small category of films that, after the end credits roll, I can sum up with the words: "What a pointless waste of a perfectly good evening."
To say that Perfect Love (original title: Parfait amour!) is about love, jealousy, passion, and destructive relationships is to make it sound quite a lot more interesting than it really is. The story revolves around the relationship of Frédérique (Isabelle Renauld) and Christophe (Francis Renaud), which looks like it could be "perfect love" but turns out to be anything but. The film itself begins with a grainy, home-video-looking sequence of a reenactment of a gruesome murder and an interview with the victim's daughter. Then it changes to a more normal "film" style to narrate the events that led up to this particular scene. Of the remainder of the film, most of the running time involves Frédérique and Christophe either having sex, or lying in bed talking at great length about the sex they've had with various other people over the years. This does not make for a particularly engaging narrative, given that the pillow talk doesn't seem to actually have any point to it.
As the film proceeds, the relationship between Frédérique and Christophe degenerates into arguments and unpleasantness. Now, if we actually cared about these characters, it might actually mean something to us when things go wrong. But they're uninteresting, uninvolving characters who have undecipherable motivations; there's nothing that makes the viewer actually care whether any of them live, die, are happy, are miserable, or anything in between. Given that, the resolution of the film is a colossal "so what?" in a repulsive wrapper.
Director Catherine Breillat seems just a little too fascinated with the visceral side of scenes. The sex scenes all drag on far too long, as do certain other, more repulsive scenes. Then again, if Breillat is aiming at representing the human body as a "piece of stinking meat" as one of the characters repeatedly refers to it, she's well on her way to achieving that goal. But even if that's so, it's an aim without a purpose; there doesn't seem to be anything behind it, no message or theme or coherent thought.
The one interesting aspect of Perfect Love is the nature of the "May-December romance." Frédérique is older than Christophe, and it's frequently commented throughout the movie that she's cradle-robbing, that it's disgraceful for him to be dating a woman who could be his mother, and so on. Clearly the film's intent is to work with a provocative social dynamic, that of the age disparity between the two lovers. But Frédérique doesn't actually look that much older than Christophe is, and as it turns out she is 37 and he is 28: only nine years' difference. That's hardly the stuff of cradle-robbing; it's well within the realm of normalcy. The real disparity here is in the fact that it's the woman in the relationship who is older.
Uncounted films have romances between an older man and a younger woman: often much older and much younger, with much more of a discrepancy than a measly nine years. Somehow, though, it's considered socially acceptable for an older man to take a younger lover, whereas older women are somehow considered "used up" or undesirable. If Breillat was working to expose this discrepancy, I'll credit her with at least choosing an interesting theme... though she doesn't really develop it. The film settles on the banalities of jealousy and the meaninglessness of sex, possibly going for shock value. The result is a film that manages to be both pointless and rather unpleasant.
Perfect Love is presented in an anamorphic 1.85:1 widescreen transfer. The image quality overall is fairly good; the one problem I noticed was a general blurriness to the image that appears to be the result of the PAL to NTSC transfer. If you look at the image frame-by-frame, it's evident that for every two or three sharp frames, there's one that's distinctly blurred.
Apart from this, the image is fairly clean and clear. Though the image isn't particularly colorful, this appears to be an artistic choice to have a neutral visual tone, as skin colors and the colors of other objects are natural-looking.
The DVD comes with optional English subtitles. I'm pleased that the subtitles can be turned off if desired, but I do wish that the producers had gone the tiny extra step of including the option of French subtitles as well.
The soundtrack for Perfect Love is French mono. That's right, a mono soundtrack for a film that was made in 1996. What were they thinking? I can see not bothering with 5.1 sound, if they felt that the film wouldn't benefit from surround sound, but not even putting the soundtrack in stereo seems rather half-baked to me. As for audio quality, as far as mono soundtracks go, it's not bad. It all sounds rather flat, but the dialogue is at least clear and understandable.
This DVD is a sliver above being bare-bones, with filmographies and weblinks.
Perfect Love is a film that manages to be simultaneously repulsive, boring, and pointless. I have in fact been subjected to worse movies, so I won't give it zero stars, but I certainly would never watch it again. Take my advice and skip this very imperfect DVD.