American director Wayne Wang’s new film looks at human relationships and erotica. A story of a straightforward sexual arrangement that disintegrates into emotional chaos, the film explores what happens when our fantasies of pleasure, power and love collide with the messy, unpredictable reality of human feelings.
Peter Sarsgaard (the villain from Boys Don’t Cry) plays Richard, a computer programmer whose work has made him hermetic and somewhat dysfunctional in the outside world. By chance he meets Florence (Molly Parker), a struggling musician who works by night as a lap-dancer in a strip club. Richard becomes fascinated with Florence and asks her to spend more time with him, offering to recompense her for any lost earnings. At first dismissing any such set-up as prostitution, Florence eventually agrees on condition that certain rules apply. But it soon becomes clear that Richard desires companionship and romance as much as sexual gratification. She’s not entirely invulnerable either, and Richard’s pleasing demeanour makes detachment hard to sustain.
‘I’ve always wanted to make a film about sex,’ says Wang, who cites past classics I Am Curious Yellow and Last Tango in Paris by way of reference. ‘What interests me is the idea of buying a fantasy; that’s what the whole strip world is all about. The clubs project a certain image of sexual availability and the customers buy into it, but ultimately it’s all a front’. U.S.A., 2000. Colour. Dolby stereo. 85 min.