(director/writer: Michael Winterbottom; cinematographer: Marcel Zyskind; editors: Mat Whitecross/Michael Winterbottom; music: Alex Kapranos/Melissa Parmenter; cast: Kieran O’Brien (Matt), Margo Stilley (Lisa); Runtime: 69; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Andrew Eaton/Michael Winterbottom; Tartan Films; 2004-UK/USA)

“The most sexually explicit legit feature film to come out of ‘merry ole’ England from a mainstream director.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Michael Winterbottom’s (“Welcome to Sarajevo”) experimental film is targeted as the most sexually explicit legit feature film to come out of ‘merry ole’ England from a mainstream director and despite all its arty porno-like sex it never gets over the thinness of its narrative to make this experiment earth shattering. It’s shot on a grainy DV and framed around nine concerts and a framing shot of an aerial view of the Antarctic that comes with a narration by the lead scientist character, who works with the British Antarctic Survey team, as he’s in the air looking down at all the ice and recalling his recent romance. Told in flashback, the film tells its love story of four months by dividing its time between the lover’s sexual escapades and the concert footage of Brit-rock groups such as Black Rebel Motorcycle Gang (opening the movie with –“Whatever Happened to My Rock ‘n’ Roll” and closing the movie with — “Love Burns”), Super Furry Animals, The Von Bondies, Franz Ferdinand, the Dandy Warhols, Elbow and Primal Scream. The stars are two unknowns, American model Margo Stilley (an alias) as Lisa and the aspiring British professional actor Kieran O’Brien as Matt. There’s no script and the two improv their way through this maybe real relationship.

British scientist (glaciologist) Matt meets the American independent-minded boyish looking 21-year-old Lisa (whose reason for being in London is never established or if she’s a student or worker) at a rock concert at Brixton Academy and she visits his pad regularly for sex (they perform safe real sex using condoms), occasional idle chatter, and sniffing lines of cocaine. When they leave the pad they dig attending concerts together. We learn nothing about the two, only we know Lisa flies back to America ending the relationship after several months in a seemingly friendly way. I guess it just goes as another casual affair that was steered on by sex, since neither party seems shook up by the romance ending.

The film aims to show that sex can tell us how the couple is getting along. Their sex starts off on a high but later on slows down as they have silly little disputes. Their intimacy never transfers on film and the venture looks as if hasn’t been thought out all that well. Though in its favor the concert footage had a high energy level, it always felt lively, and the raw sexual scenario had a strange beauty that needed no words to get over. But the good will it built up from the concert footage and the ongoing sexual relationship dissipates and all we are left with is an emptiness and opaqueness in regards to the emotional chemistry of the relationship that leaves it as distant as the Antarctic. All the experiment proved is that sex and rock ‘n’ roll might not be enough to fuel a pic nowadays, and that maybe a well-developed story is also needed.

REVIEWED ON 12/17/2005 GRADE: C+