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‘Curiosa’ review: Erotic period drama ends up being a tease

More than a steamy period piece?

Curiosa quickly gives audiences an idea of what type of film they will be seeing. Text on the screen explains that the definition of the title is an erotic object or photograph. The movie is set in France and seems to promise it is going to be torrid and steamy. The story is loosely based on the relationship between 19th century authors Pierre Louys and Marie de Regnier.

At first, it seems like things are going to be more than a sexy romantic period piece. The settings are posh and Pierre is lusty, but a new wave musical score seems to tease Curiosa will be different. There are other parts of the film that seem to separate it from similar movies. Curiosa is more about eroticism that straight up sex. The characters fancy themselves as poets and artists. Their crude talk is really means something more.

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Except for the fact that it is not. Pierre may be a photographer and consider himself an artist, but he still talks about a woman’s vagina like produce bought at the grocery store. This makes it difficult to get invested in Curiosa. The script seems to want to paint Pierre in a meaningful light, but he seems no different than any dude picking up someone at a bar. He quickly becomes a man of no importance.

Where the movie does succeed is with Marie. Set in 1897 Paris, the story deals with sexual freedom and one woman’s journey to empowerment. As Curiosa progresses, audiences become more invested in her growth. That being said, the movie starts to drag at about the halfway point. Curiosa manages to make Marie’s story interesting, but it never provides a satisfying payoff. The movie is content on ending without a strong resolution.

Curiosa looks good and the soundtrack stands out. The performances are uneven, but Noemie Merlant is fantastic. The script is a little erratic when it comes to sex and eroticism. There are moments when it amounts to little more than locker room talk and other times when it gets the tone it is aiming for. The story tries to tell a deep story, but it never rises above entertaining fluff.

Curiosa opens on VOD and digital August 13

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