Thursday, July 28, 2011

Sleeping Beauty

Writes Peter Bradshaw in The Guardian: A whiff of creepiness perfumes every scene of this film, a distinct eau de perv. It's a very bizarre drama about erotic ritual and male obsession: ridiculous in some ways, and naïve about bought sex, but very watchable and eerie. This is an Australian picture, written and directed by the novelist and first-time film-maker Julia Leigh (mentored by Jane Campion), but it has a distinctly European sheen, a feel for rectilinear compositions, deep focus and receding perspective lines in brightly lit interiors – and all with a sense of impending horror or disgust. Leigh is distantly influenced by Luis Buñuel, but more by contemporaries like Ulrich Seidl and Michael Haneke. When the characters speak, it is a big surprise to hear Australian-accented English, and not Austrian-accented German.

The action – as preposterous and deadly serious as a recounted dream – concerns Lucy, played by Emily Browning, a beautiful young student. To make some cash, she holds down various part-time jobs, in a bar, an office, and a medical lab where she is a volunteer, and submits to a thin plastic tube being inserted down her throat. This opening scene is the film's most disturbing sequence, a harrowing display of penetration that will test any audience's gag reflex and which sets up the rest of her freelance portfolio nicely. Lucy has got into the high-end escort scene, sitting in upscale bars, doing a little coke with people she meets, having sex for money with creepy guys, before going back to her scuzzy student house.

Then Lucy hits the big time: making real money from a quasi-necrophiliac cult for rich people, presided over by Clara (Rachael Blake), an elegant madame. All she has to do is lie drugged and naked on a bed in a mansion, while a wealthy old client disports himself with her lovely body however he wishes – but he is forbidden to penetrate. In the morning, she will remember nothing. Eventually, Lucy becomes obsessed with finding out what is being done to her and increasingly agonised by a tender, private friendship which in its twisted way is the nearest she gets to a normal life. Is all this sex work a way of cauterising secret fear and guilt?

The Complete Review Here.

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