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Married Claire (Kerry Fox) visits Jay (Mark Rylance) every Wednesday for sex. He’s divorced with two kids, she’s married to Andy (Tomothy Spall) and dabbles in amateur theatre at a pub. Their arms-length relationship is both painful and addictive, destructive yet somehow important. When Jay tries to find out more about her – he doesn’t even know her name – the complications rapidly increase.

Review by Jake Wilson:
Due to its explicit and partly non-simulated sex scenes, Intimacy has received a lot of publicity as a 'controversial' new release. This is fair enough, I suppose, but also misleading. It's not a film about perversion or sado-masochism: the characters inflict a good deal of pain on each other, but mainly in ways that are emotional rather than directly sexual. Generally when we see Jay and Claire having sex together it looks fairly straightforward and satisfying; it's when Jay starts to distrust this amicable arrangement that things get messy. 

The first section of the film is intriguing (and frustrating) partly because it takes a long time to learn much about who these people actually are (as opposed to how their bodies appear in motion). Neither transgressive nor revelatory, sex is rendered as an unavoidable fact of life, continuous with the muck of the everyday. Chereau's hovering camera and close-miked sound insist without malice on the couple's fumblings with condoms, or their graceless orgasmic gasps above the sounds of nearby traffic. 

It's an interesting fusion of British and European styles, the combination of handheld camerawork and widescreen format suggesting at once freedom and weight - the density of a world beyond the frame, and the effort required to keep it in focus. It's possible that Intimacy is more a string of impressive scenes than a complete movie, yet director Patrice Chereau and his lead actors take a worthwhile risk in having both Jay and Claire remain opaque and surly throughout, never allowing either of them to fit 'an easy pattern of behavior' (as John Cassavetes once put it). It's fascinating as well to see the enigmatic central couple alongside the more theatrical, half-caricatured acting style of Timothy Spall (whose character seems on loan from a Mike Leigh movie). 

The extensive use of theatre-within-the-film also seems like a Cassavetes debt - roleplaying is a central theme throughout, perhaps because the actors re required to reveal so much of their private selves. As we watch these lovers grappling on the floor, the distinction between character and actor threatens to evaporate, along with any clear personality that can be attributed to either - leaving only the weight of the body and its mysterious drives.

Published July 17, 2003

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CAST: Mark Rylance, Kerry Fox, Timothy Spall, Alastair Galbraith, Philippe Calvario, Marianne Faithfull

DIRECTOR: Patrice Chéreau

SCRIPT: Patrice Chéreau, Hanif Kureishi, Anne-Louise Trividic

RUNNING TIME: 119 minutes

PRESENTATION: 16 X 9 widescreen

SPECIAL FEATURES: Director’s Notes; Film & Crew Filmographies

DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Fox Entertainment

DVD RELEASE: July 16, 2003

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