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Jay, a failed musician, walked out of his family and now earns a living as head bartender in a trendy London pub. Every Wednesday afternoon a woman comes to his house for graphic, almost wordless, sex. One day Jay follows her and finds out about the rest of her life (and that her name is Claire). This eventually disrupts their relationship. Written by
You know when you're with someone there's only a very short time when you can really give each other things for free... with neither of you having to ask. Because later on all you do is make demands of each other. Perhaps the only difference between her and all the rest is that she's asking you for nothing.
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Worthwhile exploration of wordless love and loveless words
Though it may not achieve all its aims, Patrice Chereau's would-be existentialist drama, adapted from stories by Hanif Kureishi, makes a welcome change from the recent run of London-based thrillers and comedies. Intriguing while it focuses on the obsessive sexual relationship between non-committal Claire (Kerry Fox) and embittered, divorced Jay (Mark Rylance), the film tends to lose its way as more characters and situations are introduced. Shot, with a lot of hand-held camera, in Jay's untidy flat, in crowded bars, and in busy South London streets, about the only visually beautiful frames are those showing Claire's and Jay's intertwined naked bodies, relaxing after their frenzied love-making.
Meeting once a week, and hardly speaking to each other, both Claire and Jay seem to be satisfied with little more than sex; but his curiosity takes over, he begins to follow her, and is resentful and envious when faced with the realisation that she has a life of her own and may simply be using him. The movie explores questions such as - how far can sex alone can take a relationship; and do words add to or detract from love? Another theme is that of role playing, on the stage and in life.
Both Fox and Rylance are superb in their scenes together; and Timothy Spall is excellent as Claire's talkative, down-to-earth husband. But I confess to finding Claire's friend Betty (Marianne Faithfull) a baffling character. Some sequences, particularly those involving Jay's friend Victor (Alastair Galbraith) and gay French barman Ian (Philippe Calvario), seem simply to be padding. Possibly, Chereau felt the need to insert personalities and scenes from Kureishi's books, even though these were not relevant to the central Claire-Jay situation. Finally, yes, the over-hyped explicit sex is necessary for the movie to work.
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