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:: Intimacy

“Intimacy” follows the weekly sexual rendezvous of two working class strangers in London. Jay (Mark Rylance) has left his wife and family to begin an affair with Claire (Kerry Fox). The conversations are kept to a minimum and lovemaking is seen as unerotic and synthetic, though fascinating. Things change when Jay follows Claire home one day and discovers that she has a husband and child of her own. And we learn of how Claire becomes unsure of her motives for this liaison.

This is Patrice Chereau’s first film in English and is very different to the usual Hollywood portrayal of sex on film. This couple makes love in a naturally clumsy manner that is not given a false, erotic edge by camera choreography. The explicit material is far from titillating although it’s interesting to observe how the camera is so close at times to the actors’ bodies that they become almost abstract. We see Jay and Claire as highlighting desire and obsession complete with joy, despair and confusion.

But the film reveals themes that are experienced nearly every day by the film’s audience. The honesty and cleverness is rarely seen in film. Flashbacks in the film reveal that Jay left his wife and two young sons, with no explanation, about a year before the affair with Claire. His story has the shape of a typical male midlife crisis. The first half of the film has this solid portrait of a despondent guy trying to connect with something.

The film loses is way a little in the second half, with a patchy explanation of Claire’s theatre acting and her relationship with her husband. It strays from the obvious focus of the film, which is Jay. But Kerry fox shows her acting prowess, along with Mark Rylance, to provide a strong performance. “Intimacy” has already attracted a deal of attention in Britain, particularly on a censorship basis, for the hardcore sex scenes (there is one unsimulated shot of oral sex). Overall, though, director Chereau packs the story with thought-provoking material and avoids superficiality. In the bouts of emotion and sensuality, “Intimacy” lives up to its title and is interesting viewing.

Screening at the George Cinemas and Cinema Como