The Principles of Lust (2003) Poster

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Interesting, if flawed.
noir guy29 October 2003
At last, a British movie with a degree of ambition, even if the ambition remains unfulfilled by the film's fade-out. Basically, this is the old tale of the blocked male protagonist becoming enervated by an encounter with his dark side before ultimately realising the error of his ways (see also FIGHT CLUB). As a meditation on machismo and the male psyche, this certainly passes muster, with the dark side manifestation Billy (a truly scary and, hopefully, career-defining performance by Marc Warren) proving that the devil really does have all the best tunes (literally, as the soundtrack really rocks when the characters get down to their darker doings). However, the invention and insight runs out around the halfway mark leaving us with some sub-Georges Bataille musings and a conventional wrap-up which seriously detract from an interesting set-up which promises much but delivers merely a light cuff when a sucker punch is needed. Still, it's dark, challenging and occasionally disturbing work (the corruption of innocence theme is particularly well handled, as is the direction of all the child actors), and the explicit sexual detail will almost certainly result in a truncated or unrated version being released Stateside. On the basis of this, director Penny Woolcock and saturnine star Marc Warren look to be emergent talents well worth watching. Recommended, albeit with reservations.
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nermal112 February 2005
I watched this film primarily as a fan of Sienna Guillory. To be honest, she was the only thing worth hanging around for, the film became so boring at stages I felt myself drifting off to sleep. It feels incredibly long, especially once you reach the end of the movie and realise not a whole lot has actually happened. It doesn't feel original (the same ideas have been dealt with in countless better films), the acting was hardly top notch, and the characters were thoroughly unlikeable and unoriginal. Unless you're really into these types of films, or you have a *really* strong fascination with one of the actors involved, I wouldn't recommend it. You're not missing much.
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david-12914 May 2004
I found the philosophy of what this film was after very persuasive. Looking at the schism that forms in any artist serious about their work, and the agony of the personal choices that come out of sacrificing for one's work. The film looks at how artists make this choice. The characters are well defined and the acting is compelling. I felt the tension of the central character's choices palpably. The motivations behind the actions of each character were well exposed and added depth to what, in less able hands, would have resulted in inexplicable behavior. This central theme of choice, the choice of what type of life we pursue and the conflicts that emerge between desire for adventure and comfort are beautifully drawn in this film.
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Unrelentingly Awful
theplatformtheatre5 March 2007
This is one of the worst films I've ever scene. And if this is the kind of film Britain is making then let the industry die.

I was stunned at how bad this film is.

The acting except for Marc Warren and Sienna Guillory is awful. Alec Newman stares madly into space a lot of the time. The supporting cast are so wooden that they can't possibly be professional actors.

Guillory and Newman aren't helped by the fact their characters are selfish, boring and unlikeable.

Marc Warren alone has an interesting character and his performance is all that makes it watchable. The film does at least pick up some energy when he is screen. When he's not the rest of the cast mope around in boredom.

The script is dull. Characters sit in the bath or smoke joints while talking about living life to the full.

The orgy scene is laughable with one character spouting pretentious rubbish about exploring the darker side while wearing a dog collar.

I stuck with this, like I was watching a car crash to see how bad it would get. And when it thankfully finished I was left with a feeling of "So What?".

Its a film that desperately wants to shock with it scenes of explicit sex and violence against children but to be honest is tedious and reminds me of the kind of thing Sixth formers would make to upset their parents.

The fact this film was backed when so many others are struggling to find finance is another nail in the coffin of the British film Industry.

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Boring Trashy Story Without Style or Vision
gavilargebean19 October 2007
Warning: Spoilers
The problem I had with the film was its approach. It was ultimately boring TV. It is as if it had no direction in it whatsoever. It's as if the camera is just picking up some kind of reality TV. The story starts in a typically pedestrian way, a struggling writer struggles to write, just like the writer of the story must have, with some sort of inner conflict, confusion etc, he meets a girl. Our tormented soul encounters a beautiful woman who helps the protagonist come to a sort of realization which ultimately opens the floodgates to more confusion and he keeps meeting his bad guy friend who holds him back from being with the girl. This method is guaranteed to put you to sleep in the first two minutes. Then there's the voice-over. If they can't tell a story properly, why bother. Don't add voice over, If they can tell a story for film, they should just go and work in Radio.

Then there's the "introspective shot" which features the main character staring into space for a good minute. How pretentious can it get without moving anywhere? This has been done many times and also by wannabe film makers and students who don't know what else to do.

Gratuitous shots which were there for no reason, ordinary choices and silly angles, OK, is that all? Nothing new or inspiring, it's total cheese. Better watch something else I think. Also as for the couple, do they really want us to believe that She would go out with him? That's totally implausible! The film irritated me as there is so much out there to watch and this was just a waste of time. This is a Slice of Life that is more uninteresting than real life.

All the acting is wooden. But Marc Warren is Excellent in Hustle and he seems to shine in all he does so I wonder who's fault it is with this film? Marc Warren's character was interesting but he needed a bit more. Sienna is okay but just a bit too wooden. Newman is a fine actor but I didn't like his character and I think he was badly cast also, I just didn't care this time.

The orgy scene is derisory. Enough said.

When the film finished I was left with a feeling of 'So What?'. Why oh Why make boring films trash. Is it because someone thought they could and didn't stop to think if they should? This film is uncreative and badly directed, if there was any direction involved that is. The best thing was the music track at the end which I did like, but that didn't make up for the rubbish TV-trash film.
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Some surprising moments
ellkew30 January 2008
I am surprised so many people really hate this film. I thought it was quite brave in the way it approached its subject matter and for me it took me down a different grittier path to the sterile world of the ordinary polished British film. I never really knew where this was going which again I enjoyed (you can plot the direction of a Richard Curtis film after fifteen minutes) and it left me thinking about why other films don't do this. It was by no means ground breaking and the characters were unpleasant but then so was Travis Bickle. It had some strong scenes but on the whole it didn't quite hold together. Marc Warren was the best thing in it and I would probably watch most films with him in. Could have been better but still gave me some nice surprises which I can't say about many British films.
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Truly badly deeply
max_willey16 August 2007
I was startled by how poor this film was.

All the male characters that were supposed to be "cool" laughably sported identical black leather jackets and stubble, looking every bit like middle class drop outs, but getting their kicks from hanging around illegal bare knuckle fights... the scenes in which the naughty posh boys were knocking about with psychotic hard-men bottling each other in a strip bar were extremely cringe-worthy and utterly unbelievable.

Also did anyone notice how much Marc Warren looked like Eddie Izzard in the orgy scene with that diamanté dog collar?! That chuckle was the only thing I enjoyed about the whole film.

Oh - the kid was an excellent actor too - really good.

Other than that it was RUBBISH!
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bit empty, but with pretensions to something more.
legspinner16 September 2009
Warning: Spoilers
The trouble with this film is, there are at least three good films struggling to get out, and none of them do. There is a good film about the effect of charisma and its ability to draw weak people into situations. That's touched upon, but the characters are not really that believable. Then there is the exploitation of minors film struggling to get out, with the clever subplot of the child's OTHER pastime, the community play - but this is hardly ever touched upon; it should be the main focus of the film, really. OK, I can't think of a third good film struggling to get out - but what we are left with is a rather dreary flick that struggles to get out of second gear. All the acting with the exception of the "charismatic" Marc Warren is of the 'ultra-realist' school in which the height of ambition is to 'gel' with normal people. The trouble is, the normal people the characters represent are quite stupid, all things considered. Although they are all 'artistes', they seem to inhabit a world where no one can exist without sex and where no one is really ready to point up the obvious - such as a kid used for bare-knuckle boxing. Thus, you don't care about the characters. When the main actor tells the kid that he isn't getting a 'fucking dog' you just wish the whole film would go away. Pathetic stuff.

This should have been a one-hour special on BBC1, but they wouldn't have got the hard-core porn in. Not really worth the admission price. Filmfour at its worst.
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Worst Movie Ever Made
cjhanz8417 June 2004
This is the most god awful piece of crap movie that i've ever seen. I saw it at the Sundance film festival and nearly walked out. Most if not all the audience felt the same way I did. Way too many orgy scenes, children fighting in cockfights and the main character has a revelation of what he wants like 5 minutes before the movie ends, oh how great for you, but why should we give a s***? The characters are boring and mediocre and you knew you were screwed by the opening credits with a man swimming naked, utterly useless, which was most of this film. It could have been cut down to a 3 minute film. If i had to sit through this movie ever again, i would need a vomit bag as this movie was nasty and it seriously did offend me.
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LLB21218 September 2003
This hypersexual hyperviolent film winds up addressing serious issues perhaps in spite of it self and its writer-director Penny Woolcock who was present at the screening I saw along with female lead Sienna Guillory at the Toronto Film Festival. Paul, a would be writer, starts a primarily sexual relationship with Juliette including carefree intimacy in public which gives Paul the sense that he is living life on the edge. Also in his life is Billy, the apotheosis of the edge and a good stand in for The Prince of Darkness. Ultimately Paul must address the difference between observing life and living life and having a fantasy vs. living a fantasy. Do things have a point or are things the point in themselves? This film is strong enough to not provide answers.

For those who have asked the question, Ms. Woolcock replies that the bare-knuckle children show that Billy is always moving on to a higher level of outrageousness.
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An exploration of the choices we have in life
rocdoc200419 June 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Regardless of others viewers' outrage, I thought this wasn't a bad movie - OK yes there are some graphic scenes, but not many of them. At worst the orgy scene probably didn't need to be as graphic as it was, but it still was important to the plot and did add authenticity to the theme being explored.

"The Principles of Lust" is a story about Paul, a struggling writer who discovers a great gal and her son - the instant family. But a chance meeting with Billy has provided him with an avenue into an extreme, morally ambiguous world. For the writer in him (or simply for the fact he is a bored human) this indulgent world appeals to him, causing conflict in his "normal" boring life.

A number of reasons why this film fails is given in other reviews, but I wonder if they have simply missed the point? To me, the movie explores two paths in life many of us can have access to, the more common (but boring and responsible) family life, or the "opposite" world of indulgence and chaos that has excitement at every turn. Paul must decide what he wants, what he values the most, before the chaos of one life consumes him whole and he loses any chance of getting back to "normality".

I think the movie does a pretty good job exploring this theme through Paul's character. The movie also does a good job with Billy - rather than being the Devil as some have suggested, I think there is much more decency in the guy than is given credit for, even though he is more than a little lost and crazy.

It would have been uncomfortable watching this in a movie theatre, but at home you can ponder the more graphic scenes without worrying what others think of you. If you allow this movie to be an exploration of a theme (visual literature) rather than the more mundane "visual entertainment", it becomes better than what some viewers have given it credit for.
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SuPeRCrAzYoi27 June 2007
Disgustingly dull movie about some selfish, self centred individuals. If it had concentrated on the themes of abuse, bullying, alienation of the lower classes and subculture, it might have had something to say. It didn't. Its lost in the vapour of its own pretentiousness. Unnecessary graphic orgy scenes. Yes they are meant to be metaphoric, but you know, it could been done with a little more enthusiasm, which the whole film lacks. Utterly contrived. All the actors should be shamed for the exploitation that this movie got from them. All this from a female director. What a waste of time. Who was this aimed at? what was its goal? Totally misguided. Badly filmed. No creativity in editing. Nothing.
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Brave and jaunty
andyflavoured9 March 2011
Granted the Principles of Lust is patchy, but it's nothing like as bad as you would conclude from other user reviews. It pushes at the boundaries, challenges the viewer with explicit images you would never expect to see even in an 18-cert movie, but does also say a lot about relationships in the process. Paul and Juliette's instant attraction and failure to communicate effectively echoed much of the love-hate nature of real life relationships in my experience, right down to the closing shots where love and bitterness combine while Juliette's son looks on, uncertain. Secondly, Paul's uncertainty about himself and his status as a writer speaks volumes - and thereby he represents the vast majority of us. Ultimately, do we know what we really want? Maybe we are all drawn to the dark side but are afraid to admit it, even to ourselves?

So from my perspective, bravo to Penny Woolcock for making this film, which inevitably will polarise its audience - but remember its nod to Fight Club, and the fact that it is adapted from a novel by Tim Cooke. It's hard to imagine a feistier adaptation than this.
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Interesting insightful crtique
ogden_fahey18 October 2015
Saw this tonight and felt obliged to look up this film online, its apolitical kitchen sink drama for the naughties - or noughties, or whatever - but its more than kitchen sink, its Shakespearian with its symbolism. Poor Britain, it has descended into lad-ism and porn, gone mad between temptation and boredom, the sickness of newsfeed represented by shocking violence, irresponsibility and real games. I'm seriously impressed with the writer who got all this into the script, I "got it" Its not for the faint hearted, a lot of things aren't, but if you're a player, or want to be - well you might be surprised what actually goes on. I hope to see more from this director.
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