The Lover (L'Amant) (1991) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski) and Tuna
Jean-Jacques Annaud is one of the most interesting filmmakers in the world.
He is extremely proficient. He takes a back seat to nobody when it comes to photographic composition, and his films always seem to be scored beautifully. The factor that has kept him from being recognized as the one of the world's greatest filmmakers is his choice of projects. He's a guy who doesn't like repeating himself, and likes to march to his own drummer. In 1986, he made a movie of The Name of the Rose, based on Umberto Eco's talky, convoluted, multi-lingual masterpiece that plays out like Sherlock Holmes in the Dark Ages. That film was hailed by many critics as a masterpiece, and I'd agree, but it managed only a seven million dollar domestic gross to help offset its twenty million dollar budget.
So did he try for something more commercial next time? Not on your life. He filmed The Bear, a movie which has few humans and almost no dialogue. It is literally a story about a family of bears. This time, he managed a healthy $30 million gross. His recent projects have included Seven Years in Tibet, and Enemy at the Gates. Every film he has made in the past twenty years is rated 6.0 or better at IMDb. Several of them are above 7.0
Now, imagine what would happen if a filmmaker of that caliber, a man as proficient as Spielberg or Scorsese or Soderbergh, decided to make a soft-core porn film. Well, ol' Jean-Jacques did just that. How did the process work?
Obviously, he didn't need any help in cinematography or scoring or costumes or set design. His films have been nominated for about a gazillion Cesars, and several Oscars. What he did need was an erotic project which also had substantial literary and cinematic merit, something on the level of D.H. Lawrence. Lawrence himself had already been overdone, but the book which came to Annaud's attention was a semi-autobiographical account by Marguerite Duras about how she lost her lost her virginity. This met all his criteria:
So how did it turn out?
Well, I think a picture is worth 10,000 words when it comes to cinematography. Check this out.
Not bad for a sex flick,
eh? It is certainly the best photographed skin flick ever made. Pretty much
as good as any flick, skin or not. You could stack it up next to Barry
Lyndon or Crouching Tiger or Days of Heaven any other movie you could
name, and it would not be embarrassed at all.
The film is backed by a solid score and features Duras's own words, so it maintains a consistent tone and atmosphere which is sensuous and beautiful. Many women like this film, despite the explicit content. I wish I could tell you that the whole is as good as its best parts, but it isn't. It is painfully (if artfully) slow. There's really nothing Annaud could do about the pacing. You can either have good, explicit, realistic sex or a fast-paced narrative, but it isn't possible to do both. Obviously, if you're going to interrupt the film's momentum for five minutes of explicit sex, the storyline is not going to advance. Given the need to balance the story and the sex, the slow pacing is understandable.
Is the sex truly that realistic? Tell ya what, my bet is that it was more than merely a realistic simulation. I'm pretty sure those two were really gettin' it on. And in fact, it seems very real, whether it was or not.
This is one of the best, most accurate films ever made about forbidden, purely sexual relationships, and one of the most explicit films that you can watch "as a couple", and find that she enjoys it more than you do.
comments in yellow:
I can think of many films that have equally brilliant camera work, but most of them are among the greatest films of all time. The Lover is unique in one respect. Nearly every frame is spectacular.
|Scoop characterized it
as a film about a relationship based on lust. I have to disagree
somewhat. They both knew at the beginning that there was no future for
them, but the Chinese man fell for her. The barriers between them were
more than age, money and social standing. As a Chinese man, he was not
allowed to be with an American woman, and she was equally barred from
a relationship with a Chinese man. The forbidden aspect was probably
part of the original appeal. He was to marry a rich wife he had never
met, but went so far as to ask his father's permission. The
father answered that he would rather see him dead. She was able
to convince herself that she didn't care, but when she left for
France, she was pleased to see him watching her depart from his car. A
few days into the voyage, she realized that she cared more than she
This is one of the more sensual and sensuous films I have seen, and is pretty hot in places as well.
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