Rêves de cuir (1992)

Plot :

A young woman (ZARA WHITE) and her maid (NOELLE OHORES) awaken by a strange image furtively seen a series of submission and domination fantasies. Swepted into the whirlpool of their erotic frenzy, they begin to be prisonners of LEATHER DREAMS. This tale is directed by Master of porno Francis LEROI, who finally reconciles pornography with erotism AND cinema.

Les Cahiers du Cinéma considers this movie like one of ” the 1000 best films you must have to get on video.”

Point of view :

Extensively hyped by production company Colmax (for whom this title remains an all time bestseller) at the time, RÊVES DE CUIR represented the first shot on video feature made by the sadly no longer with us longtime filmmaker Francis Leroi, whose career ran the gamut from free-form ’60s risqué fare heavily indebted to the French New Wave (CINE GIRL) via ’70s soft-core romps (LES TENTATIONS DE MARIANNE) to all out hardcore (JE SUIS A PRENDRE, LA PETITE FILLE AU BORDEL) with the occasional sidestep into outright fantasy (LE DEMON DANS L’ILE). A man of great intelligence and eloquence, he never felt the need to answer for his chosen profession, instead laboring long and hard (keep the penile jokes to yourselves, please !) to make the best adult movies that the limits of time and budget would allow.

Experimenting with the then new technology resulted in what may have been his most unpredictable and adventurous movie since his non-linear, Godard-influenced early days. Working with an eclectic cast comprised of at least four different nationalities, he immediately discarded all dialog, making the finished film both more abstract and universal. The set-up consists of a bizarre, unfathomable incident which could also be interpreted as Leroi’s conscious attempt at breaking down the “fourth wall”. A mystery man (tellingly played by the director) leaves a videotape on a bus shelter bench next to an elegantly attired waiting woman. She’s Dutch adult superstar Zara Whites who made quite a splash on both sides of the Atlantic. At home, she slips the cassette into the VCR, witnesses a stylish VIDEODROME-inspired S&M session with former Miss France runner-up Tennesy (star of Michel Ricaud’s LES PUTES DE L’AUTOROUTE and ALLO FANTASMES, ICI DOCTEUR) and proceeds to lose all track of time or reality. One moment she’s making out in the shower with her very accommodating personal maid Deborah Wells (billed as “Noelle O’Hores”), the next she’s in a smoky jazz club fantasizing about a
pair of sophisticated strumpets (Australian Sunny McKay and stunning black Charlene Roben who appeared in several of Max Bellocchio’s more extreme endeavors) mauling sax player Richard Rouille.

She appears to wake up (from a dream within a dream perhaps ?) next to husband/lover Christophe Clark but is then whisked away by another masked man to a cabin in the woods where, strapped to a chair and ball-gagged, she’s forced to watch a light kink number involving Pénélope and diminutive muscle hunk Frank Chapuis. And so it continues. Whites becomes ever more addicted to the images on the tape (Leroi’s allegory of the adult audience’s state of mind ?) and is ultimately swallowed whole, winding up trapped in the TV set. The coda sees Leroi leaving the tape for another woman to pick up.
Though one could conceivably compare Leroi’s intent to that of David Lynch with LOST HIGHWAY or for that matter Michael Haneke with CACHE – both of which this ironically predates – if one were academically minded (or in need of a good excuse to enjoy such polished filth), I think it’s a safe bet to assume that the director was just having fun with the possibilities of his new medium, making the technology which in effect brought sex back from the theaters into most people’s bedrooms an important part of the narrative. Throwing logic out of the window early on, this “waking dream” type of narrative strand is ultimately clear and straightforward, neatly looping back to its beginning at film’s end. The somewhat choreographed, ritualistic sex benefits greatly from this presentation, contrary to my usual personal preference of enthusiasm and spontaneity. The moody camera work by Norbert Marfaing-Sintes (who shot lots of naughty cable fare for French channel M6) uses the extreme clarity of the video image to its advantage, especially in a CLOCKWORK ORANGE-style sequence with Zara groped by various disembodied gloved hands while underneath a gradually torn satin sheet. Not wanting to repeat himself, Leroi dropped the ball somewhat with this movie’s muddled and near-incomprehensible sequel. Fortunately, his last feature, the complex and haunting REGARDE-MOI, was a complete masterpiece, a fitting testament for one of the finest French adult filmmakers. {Dries Vermeulen ([email protected]) from Brugge, Belgium / imdb}