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The Loss of Sexual Innocence.

The Loss of Sexual Innocence

* Written and directed by Mike Figgis * Starring Julian Sands, Saffron Burrows, Stefano Dionisi, Kelly MacDonald, and Jonathan Rhys-Meyers * Sony Pictures Classics

Sex is forever being cut short in Mike Figgis's The Loss of Sexual Innocence. Phones ring, people stumble through the door, and, in the most extravagant display of coitus interruptus ever, a squad of police with attack dogs and searchlights disturbs a couple's reverie, followed by a fleet of flash-popping paparazzi.

When you talk about love, to paraphrase Patti LaBelle, you should be talking 'bout shame. That's the gist of this magical, mystical mess of a movie from the man who brought us Leaving Las Vegas and One Night Stand. Alternately alluring and confounding, The Loss of Sexual Innocence hearkens back to all those obsessive early nouvelle-vague efforts of Alain Resnais and Jean-Luc Godard, the ones that sent our parents fleeing to some diner afterward to argue over coffee and cake whether it was fabulous or a piece of shit.

Through a fragmented, assertively nonlinear accumulation of flashbacks, dreams, and fantasias, we piece together the life of Nic, a successful English film director (played as an adult by Julian Sands and as a teen by Velvet Goldmine's Jonathan Rhys-Meyers). As Nic drives home to his frigid wife or off to yet another exotic third-world shoot, we get glimpses of his past.

A 5-year-old Nic living in Kenya witnesses an older relative sexually exploit one of the local girls. A 12-year-old Nic is subjected to harassment by his gym teacher and classmates. A 16-year-old Nic watches as an object of lust crumbles in a pool of vomit. What joins these strange, disparate episodes is a contrasting axis of youthful curiosity and grownup cruelty, punctuated by a deconstructed Edenic idyll in which a black Adam and a white Eve play out the fall of man to a potently contemporary finish. In this unforgiving landscape even a blind woman is subject to gross insensitivity when her Seeing Eye dog is pounced upon by a lusting mongrel.

For all the jumping about in time and place, Figgis keeps us focused until a baffling interlude that features supermodel bombshell Saffron Burrows (who has talked about her real-life bisexuality in the press) as twins separated in their youth. Figgis tracks their separate, nearly intersecting paths but also implies that they are just alter egos of the same person (although one of the alter egos sleeps with women). Your guess is as good as mine. But then this is the sort of ultrahip movie that makes us feel stupid for questioning that Nic's adult self doesn't look a thing like his adolescent or teenage selves.

The real star is the camerawork of Benoit Delhonune, the hot French cinematographer (The Scent of Green Papaya) whose ravishing reflections through pools of water and poignant glimpses of figures through panes of glass take the breath away. Is The Loss of Sexual Innocence fabulous or a piece of shit? I'd say it's a bit of both. But then I haven't had my cake and coffee yet.

Stuart is theater critic and senior film writer for Newsday.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Review
Author:Stuart, Jan
Publication:The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)
Article Type:Movie Review
Date:Jun 8, 1999
Words:521
Previous Article:Evil choices, hard choices.
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