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"The Loss of Sexual Innocence"

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Mike Figgis's new movie is called The Loss of Sexual Innocence, but there's not much sex on view and even less innocence. Figgis is a strange amalgam of artiste and pulpster, and, disconcertingly often in his career, the artiste wins out. When he makes a smart, vicious Hollywood crime melodrama like Internal Affairs, from somebody else's script, he's a surefooted ace; he even roused Richard Gere into a fire-breathing portrayal as a precinct Iago. Figgis came out of the multimedia-performance art circuit in England, and he's also a jazz musician; at his best, in Internal Affairs and parts of Stormy Monday and the overrated Leaving Las Vegas, he gets a rhythmic swing going in his imagery that's elegantly woozy. But his "personal" films, like Liebestraum and One Night Stand, which he mostly writes himself, are a tough sit. His new movie has something to do with a documentary filmmaker (Julian Sands) and the various traumatic stages in his life, shown in flashback, as a 5-, 12-, and 16-year-old -- all of it crosscut with grainy, yellow-filtered sequences featuring Adam and Eve -- a black man and a Nordic white woman -- and their fall from grace. My press notes tell me -- the film certainly didn't -- that we're watching a drama about not only the loss of sexual innocence but "the humanity of our species." Yet what I experienced was a lot of fetid experimental-film folderol perfumed by Chopin nocturnes on the soundtrack. Adam and Eve look like they wandered over from Woodstock Nation. In their finest hour, they achieve oneness by stepping into the shimmering river of life and making pee-pee. The Serpent shows more restraint.


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