ONE IS hard pressed to imagine anyone brassy or foolish enough to make a film called "The Loss of Sexual Innocence," featuring a nonlinear story about sexual experiences, intercut with allegorical depictions of a naked Adam and Eve poking at each other's private parts.
Writer-director Mike Figgis goes for it, anyway.
The movie, which stars Julian Sands, is the culmination of a long-standing idea. Figgis, a musician, composer, former theatrical director and the director of "Leaving Las Vegas" and "Internal Affairs," had originally intended to combine the elements of "Sexual Innocence" into a mixed media show featuring film, live performance and music. He had shelved the idea for almost 20 years when the success of "Leaving Las Vegas" gave him the money and freedom to attempt this movie.
I can't say the wait was entirely worth it.
From what I can deduce, the quasi-autobiographical, elliptical story is about the emotionally painful, embarrassing or uncomfortable sexual episodes experienced by Nic (played as an adult by Julian Sands) over the course of his life. Nic spends some of his childhood in Kenya, then moves to the north of England (where he's played as a 16-year-old by Jonathan Rhys-Meyers), before becoming a filmmaker (now Sands), who is making a movie in northern Africa. Presumably this movie is a lot like "The Loss of Sexual Innocence."
Nic's life is counterpointed with depictions of Adam (Femi Ogumbanjo) and Eve (Hanne Klintoe), whom we meet just before that whole snake-and-fruit snafu. We go from Nic to the biblical duo as they wade around in a lake and discover each other with prying fingers and childlike curiosity.
With a young black man playing Adam and an almost translucently white woman performing Eve duty, Figgis is clearly referencing a slew of symbols, dichotomies, yin-yangs or whatever. It's up to you -- in a sort of Rorschach-test appreciation -- to decide what you're seeing. Personally, I just saw two first-time actors doing whatever it takes to get a movie credit.
There is a great deal more to be said about the movie. But I'm not sure what can be uncovered. What for instance, should we make of an intertitle that says: HER FATHER WHICH (NOW) ARE IN HEAVEN? And what of the whole tragic experience -- I'm trying not to give things away -- in the African desert wherein a film crew falls afoul of a tribe of locals all bedecked and painted in blue?
The problem is, Figgis depends on his considerable ability to evoke mood in a symphony of image, montage and music. But these scenes, watchable as some of them are (and I don't mean the Fall of Man Follies), don't accumulate into much more than abstract mush. For me, at least, "The Loss of Sexual Innocence" is the highly cinematic equivalent of a smoke-and-mirrors job. It only seems to be about something.
THE LOSS OF SEXUAL INNOCENCE (R, 101 minutes) -- Contains graphic nudity, strong language and sexual scenes. At the Cineplex Odeon Inner Circle.
CAPTION: Paradise lost: As Adam and Eve, Femi Ogumbanjo and Hanne Klintoe symbolize . . . whatever.