Based on two short stories by Hanif Kureishi, French director Patrice Chereau’s first English-language film is a stunningly-made film that explores the mysteries of sexual desire in a dauntless way. Chereau, still better known for his theatrical and operatic productions, continues to develop as a daring filmmaker. In his new movie, which might have been titled Naked, he puts raw sexuality centre stage, while investigating its effects on a trio of characters whose paths criss-cross and fates change as a result of one tumultuous encounter.
The first reel depicts a series of rough sexual encounters between Jay (Mark Rylance) and Claire (Kerry Fox). Except for the particular position in which they engage, the scenario is the same: they meet every Wednesday in the shabby basement of Jay’s London apartment. It’s sex at its most impersonal, with hardly any word exchanged before or after the act. However, human nature being human nature, Jay develops a curiosity about Claire’s identity and begins to follow her. At first it seems that Jay is the sexual aggressor and the one who benefits the most, but gradually Claire becomes more assertive, to the point where her decision not to show up one Wednesday has detrimental effects on Jay.
Taking elements from Kureishi’s story Nightlife and from the personal memoir Intimacy, screenwriters Chereau and Anne-Louise Trividic add deeper layers that provide hints, but fortunately never try to explain the complex and troubled personae of their protagonists. The film’s merits are beyond dispute, specifically Rylance’s and Fox’s courageous and powerful performances and the overall technical accomplishment,.
France/U.K., 2000.Colour.Anamorphic.Dolby digital stereo.120 mins.