Much was anticipated from Patrice Ch?au’s examination of relationships in his latest film, Intimacy. The film won Ch?au the Golden Bear at the 2001 Berlin Film Festival. He was previously best known for the very bloody Queen Margot (1994). English writer Hanif Kureishi, who wrote Intimacy, also wrote My Beautiful Laundrette and The Buddha Of Suburbia, both made into films. Ch?au read the novel in 1998 and felt he was chosen to make a film about modern relationships. He also found inspiration in another Kureishi story, Nightlight.

The film stars Kerry Fox who deservedly won the Silver Bear in Berlin for her handling of the role of Claire, one half of the couple at the centre of the film. The other half is played by Mark Rylance, best known for his work on the British stage.

Intimacy has been shrouded by debate concerning the 35 minutes of graphic sex contained in the film. It certainly is not a film for the faint-hearted but it was not the sex which most concerned me. Ch?au wants earnestly to examine modern relationships where sex is the most important thing. So we have a film which is supposed to be about actions and reactions, intimacy, sex and love but is really about a man having a mid-life crisis. Of course, apart from the graphic sex, these issues have all been explored before.

I found the film unconvincing and all too superficial and uninvolving. I also found myself speculating on how real the sex was and the point of it all. Ch?au created a very drab feel to the film so it looks like digital video and the whole thing is shabby and sad. Timothy Spall is excellent as the husband and Marianne Faithfull puts in a gravelly cameo. Interestingly, Fox and Rylance start naked and add clothes as the film progresses!

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