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movie review: intimacy | Gay News Asia
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26 Feb 2002

movie review: intimacy

Phin Wong reviews Intimacy, a film about Jay, a bored, middle-age bartender who meets an equally unglamorous woman once a week for wordless, anonymous sex but otherwise unburdens himself to a gay fellow bartender.

Berlin Film Festival
Best Film, Best Actress (Kerry Fox), Best European Director Awards
Director: Patrice Chereau
Cast: Mark Rylance, Kerry Fox, Timothy Spall, Alastair Galbraith, Philippe Calvario
Running time 120 minutes
Made UK/France 2000

I have lost my mojo.

A scene from Intimacy which includes clips of graphic unsimulated sex scenes
It's true. I'm in my mid-twenties and I've officially lost my sex drive (my friends are calling me Mojo No-no). To be honest, I don't think I really "lost" it. I just replaced it with happy hour at my usual bar instead.

My sexually active (that's a nice word for promiscuous) friends say that's sad, but I always tell the little sluts, "Jose Cuervo loves me despite the fact that I don't have a gym membership." And so do Mr Jim Beam, Mr Jack Daniels and all the Absolut hotties. But it wasn't always this way.

Once upon a time, I used to like sex. Hell, I used to have sex. I couldn't get enough of it, and anonymous faces were the order of the day (or decade). I used to say it was just sex, nothing else. But if it was just sex, why was it that I always avoided the people I had slept with like the plague and hardly ever entertained the idea of a repeat performance with the same person? What was I reacting to? Can sex ever just be sex, without eventually leading to complications, implications or any form of complexity?

Intimacy is a film that deals with a relationship between two people based entirely on sex. A woman shows up at Jay's doorstep at 2pm every Wednesday afternoon. They have sex on the basement floor, and then she leaves. That's it. He doesn't even know her name.

This sexual arrangement goes on for a few weeks, but things go to hell when he starts stalking her around London to find out more about her. He discovers her name is Claire, an amateur actress with a husband and a young son. Jay becomes obsessed with her and intrudes on her life. Needless to say, not all is well when the shit hits the fan.

I so very much wanted to like Intimacy. It had a brilliant concept in place, and the brave leads - the wonderful Mark Rylance (Angels and Insects) and Shallow Grave's Kerry Fox (who was named best actress for this film in Berlin) - gave faultless and undeniably truthful performances.

Unfortunately, the film let them down when it lost control of its pacing and script, with a strong, powerful, visual first half giving way to a lot of screaming, rambling and loose ends in the second half.
There were also characters in the film who seemed to exist solely to prevent Jay from having a monologue, like his friends Victor and Ian.

A scene from Intimacy which includes clips of graphic unsimulated sex scenes
Drunk Victor's the only one more pathetic than Jay, and Ian's the cute gay French guy who seems to be playing the Mercutio role, dishing out advice to Jay while secretly pining for him. It was particularly the Jay/Ian relationship that bugged me though.

We see him making goo-goo eyes at Jay when they first meet, and Jay's initial frustration about having to put up with a newbie at work gives way to being buds almost immediately. We even see Ian hanging around Jay's place at the end of the movie.

The film gives us plenty of road signs but doesn't point us in any direction. Depending on which part of the film it is, there's either too much of him or not enough of him.

However, no matter what people may think of this film, it will be it's graphic sex scenes that will be most talked about and remembered. Intimacy features not only frequent full-frontal nudity, but also lingering shots of an erect penis, a condom being rolled onto a penis, and a mouth going down on a penis.

But despite it's graphic nature, the sex scenes were ultimately non-exploitative and of utmost importance to the film and its characters (No, it's not soft-porn, so there's no reason to get it on VCD). But that's what bugs me most. The film worked beautifully when they were just physical. Why did they have to open their mouths and talk?

While smoking a cigarette after watching Intimacy, a line from Vanilla Sky came to mind. It's when Cameron Diaz's character says, "When you sleep with someone, your body makes a promise whether you do or not." I think that's why I ran away from my one night stands: if you only sleep with someone once, he/she might not notice any promise your body's made.

Bah, who needs sex anyway?

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