Friday, December 15, 2006
LIE WITH ME
Lie with Me is a specially good film about sexuality, flirting, love and the problems with love.
It was directed by Clément Virgo, who seems an unusually gifted, intelligent , sensitive -- and perhaps somewhat brave -- director, judging both by the film and his commentary on the DVD.
The film features lots of natural nudity. It's neither the porn style of nudity and sex, nor the late night soft-R style. It's like real life, where people sometimes don't wear clothes, especially when they are heading to -- or coming from -- sex.
The acting, by Lauren Lee Smith and Eric Balfour is also freshly natural. It's not the intense, internal, centered style (typified, for example, by Keifer Sutherland, Mark Ruffalo & Morgan Freeman) that is so prevalent now. It's much looser and more external.
The actors themselves, according to the commentary, are largely responsible for the shape of the physical and sexual business and nudity. It was created and improvised on the set, rather than being pre-planned, scripted and storyboarded in advance. The tone was set by Don Francks, playing an ill and aged father, who set the standard for natural nudity (at 75, on the first day of shooting) in a brave and compelling performance, kind of challenging the director and actors to follow through with equal courage in nudity and sex, developing and portraying the story.
In a short shoot -- just three weeks -- the director strove to create a loose, smooth feeling, largely told from the subjective point of view of the woman. The cameraman followed the actors, and caught their rhythm -- so closely in fact that the actress sometimes felt during love scenes that she was in a 3-way with the lover and the cameraman.
The film feels fresh and original, though it is interesting that the director claims to have taken many shots from other films, including Last Tango In Paris (a very different kind of film). He spent lots of time researching love scenes and movies about love before making this one.
According to the director, "In films about sexuality, they tend to punish the female character. I wanted to avoid all that stuff." That echos something Roger Vadim, the French director, once told me about Brigitte Bardot's character in the 1956 film, Et Dieu... créa la femme (And God Created Woman)... that what outraged people about the film at the time was that she was happy in her own sexuality. (Apparently, 50 years later, it's still hard to be natural about sexuality in film.)
In the old days, one might -- or more likely might not -- kiss a girl on the first date. Somewhat more recently, a couple might have sex after the first date. In the world of this movie, the couple first has sex, then the man asks the woman whether she'd like to go out on a date.
The director's commentary is unusually aware and intelligent. (In most commentaries, the director seems to have some particular pet stylistic elements in the film, and it is amazing how often, if a film has some glaring weaknesses, listening to the commentary suggests the reason for that: it never occured to the director to focus on those aspects of the film -- he was busy elsewhere.) This film has two weaknesses: the ending is somewhat contrived, and it is a bit thin on action. (It could use a bit more plot and perhaps lose a bit of padding.) In the commentary, the director addresses these issues at least indirectly, pointing out that the script was only about 85 pages, and he was interested in showing the action physically rather than with dialog. The subjective, rather than explicit emotional conflicts, shown with extended action rather than pithy dialog, are a conscious stylistic choice.
According to imdb, Virgo's next film, Poor Boy's Game, which will star Danny Glover, deals with race relations in Halifax. On his release from prison for the brutal beating of a black man, Donnie, a young white boxer,(Rossif Sutherland --the 6'5" son of Donald Sutherland and half brother of Kiefer), is coached by his victim's father, George (Danny Glover) for an upcoming fight against a talented and vengeful opponent.
Virgo seems to be a very skilled director with a thoughtful, interesting take on stories, and I am looking forward with great anticipation to this next film.