Intimacy (2001) from Tuna

Intimacy has received a good deal of notoriety over the explicit and seemingly honest sexuality portrayed by stars Mark Rylance and Kerry Fox,  including an actual blowjob on camera. The film has won major festival awards, and has been hailed as a brilliant art film.

The plot is simple enough. Rylance is divorced with kids, and a former musician, who now works as head barman, and lives in a squalid cold water flat. Fox shows up each Wednesday, and, without so much as a "Hi, how are you?" the two rip each others clothes off and have frantic sex. One afternoon, after a particularly nice blow-job (which we see), Rylance decides to follow Fox, and learn something about her. Thus begins act two. Whereas act one is all sex, act two is all about his learning the details of her life. She is married with a son, acts in a Pub/Theater and teaches acting classes to amateurs. Rylance meets her husband (Timothy Spall in an excellent performance) and son, and all but tells the husband he is boning his wife. Fox finds out that Rylance now knows who she is, and breaks off the relationship. It seems she was up for a good shag every Wednesday, which gave spice to her life, and gave her something to look forward to, but didn't want any sort of relationship. Rylance clearly wanted a little intimacy along with his great sex.

So, was this as hot and explicit as I was led to believe? Far more so. A blow-job, a hand-job, what I think is clear evidence of actual intercourse, and lots of erections, complete with condom.


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Rylance and Fox received kudos for their performances as being honest and convincing. I say they weren't acting at all, but were boning away, not that this is a bad thing. For lovers of celebrity nudity, in case there are any of you reading, this is birthday and Christmas rolled into one. Fox is naked through most of the first hour of the film, and shows every inch of her body, including a couple of gyno-cam shots. In addition, Rylance has a sexual encounter with a very talkative Rebecca Palmer, where she shows breasts, bush and buns. There is plenty of male nudity from Rylance as well. 

I am just a little puzzled as to why this hard core porno is an important art film. Reading reviews by critics may have answered the question, but not in a direct fashion. Roger Ebert found a theme where Rylance hated women because he was a latent homosexual. That is why he divorced his first wife, why he has what Ebert calls brutal sex with Fox, and why he doesn't want to talk to Fox. Interesting, but Fox wanted the anonymity, not Rylance, and even Ebert admits that there is no evidence for his claim in the film, but that he inferred it. Another critic sees the entire film as one of redemption for Rylance, who has hit bottom, and that the squalor of his flat is a metaphor for the mess his soul is in. And so it went... each critic found a new important theme. So why is this an important film, rather than a porno? Perhaps because it is confusing and muddled. It also helps, probably, that much of it is filmed with a shaky-cam, which we all know means either low budget or art film.

not yet available on Region 1 DVD

"Does it deserve to be an award winning film?" is the real question. I found the second half very slow, and the characters were not really revealed to my satisfaction. One comment at IMDB calls it Last Tango in Paris meets 9 1/2 Weeks. I see similarities to Last Tango, in that the relationship is purely sexual, but see none of 9 1/2 Weeks in the film. Too much time was spent on minor characters that had nothing to do with advancing the plot, and we didn't really get the motivations of the leads. Expect any US release to be NC-17, unrated, or heavily cut. 
Scoop's notes: I haven't seen it, but British audiences and critics were not impressed in the least. Guardian voters rate it 4.9/10 (less than two stars) , and the British critics averaged 4.3/10 (about one and a half stars)

The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw wrote:

"Chéreau has undoubtedly brought forth fine and intelligent performances from Rylance, Fox, and Spall - as good as anything around. But they are adrift in a film replete with false notes about sex and the city"

The Observer's Philip French added:

" ...embarrasses through its ineptitude rather than because it touches on dark corners of the soul..."

Other oddities:

  • It is rated low at IMDb by kids under 18 (how did they see it?), despite the sensationalistic sex scenes.
  • It is rated higher by women than by men.

The Critics Vote

  • General UK consensus: one and a half stars: BBC 3/5, Daily Telegraph 5/10, Independent 5/10, The Guardian 6/10, The Observer 2/10, The Times 3/10, Evening Standard 4/10, The Sun 2/10, The Express 6/10

The People Vote ...

  • IMDB summary. IMDb voters score it 6.8/10, Guardian voters 4.9/10
  • with their dollars: it was moderately successful in France with about 400,000 admissions, compared to about 15,000 each in the U.K. and the USA.
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is entirely too explicit to be more than C+, since those who hate nudity and sex on camera won't be persuaded to watch this film.

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