Intimacy (Patrice Chereau, 2001)

From Forum With No Name:

Patrice Chereau's Intimacy is terrific--his take on a grittier, more realistic Last Tango in Paris, and what Closer could have been if it had a pair of balls exposed and hanging on the big screen.

The sex is photographed in a ghastly clouded-day glow, as filtered through frosted glass; Chereau makes odd cuts here and there, not so much cutting away extraneous moments as he is fast-forwarding the footage, keeping us as off-balance and unsettled as the two lovers onscreen.

As Jay, Mark Rylance is the film's vivid center, a twisted knot of frustrations and hostility; he strikes out at his new bartender and his gay friend; he can't strike out at his lover because he knows zero about her, and it galls him--it's a situation he wants to correct. Kerry Fox is wonderful as the complexly unhappy Claire, trying to find a measure of peace and happiness. Timothy Spall is heartbreaking as Claire's husband Andy--he's smug in his contentment, but there's a poignancy to his smugness; it's so small and vulnerable it feels like a cruelty to tear apart.

Chereau, I'm told, doesn't get all the details of British life right--I don't know enough to comment on that. Ebert, though quotes one Kristina Nordstrom as saying 'no woman would be attracted to sex like that,' and 'Any woman would know this movie was directed by a man.' I don't know--seems to suggest to me that both Nordstrom and Ebert have been too offended to think clearly or they just haven't met enough women. Ebert goes on to say the film 'lets Jay off the hook.' It lets go of Jay before he reforms and lives a better life (implying that he probably doesn't); I don't see the film letting him off any hook. If anything it leaves him on said hook, hanging helplessly, hopelessly.

Tonya J: It's so odd David E. and I agree completely about this film, especially when it involves hetero sex, and that the director, Chereau is gay. He's pretty reasonable about films like this, but re Brokeback Mountain impossible to have a conversation with. Glad you liked it Noel, as did I. Way back I had that real sex in movies thread, which I'm thinking about reviving in some form, and it's a record of how my thinking was able to come around to acceptance of the brief, but real sex there was between the actors in the film.

And this Nordstrom woman is an idiot. When I was 19, ill-informed about life and more than a bit selfish, I had an affair with someone who was married with a child. It went on for 1 1/2 years; stolen moments and hours here and there. I think I was fairly obsessed and when it was over I was devastated. My reasons were much different than the Claire's and the setting(s) weren't grubby like theirs, but still ... yes, women do want sex like that as an escape, as a need, as a release.

Ah, well, there you are. But I was thinking of someone I know, who lived a life not too dissimilar, and wrote a terrific erotic screenplay that was an extension, exaggeration and in a way fulfillment of the life she lived. Interesting Filipino film, and I wish it was more easily available.

And she was--ow--breathtakingly sexy. Best argument for adultery that ever walked on two legs.

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