Monday, January 31, 2011

The Center of the World (2001)

I caught this film on IFC on demand, and I got sucked into the film slowly.  The film is directed by Wayne Wang a director I am familiar with, but I haven't seen much of his work.  His films The Joy Luck Club, Chan Is MissingBlue in the Face, and Smoke are indie favorites.   The Center of the World is a sort of erotic tale between a women and man and their three nights in Vegas.    The plot of the film is described best here:

"A San Francisco computer wizard, who has made his millions in the digital world, meets a beautiful stripper at a gentleman's club. Immediately attracted to each other, the two take off for Las Vegas, where, for three days, they explore the limits of their sexuality and the nature of passion and pleasure"

The interesting thing here is the characters.  There is quite a bit of sex, and male and female nudity in the film, but that's not what makes the film so compelling to watch.  This film isn't for the raincoat crowd.  In fact sometimes the sex gets in the way and some scenes do play on a bit too long.  There are two scenes which are liked were when the characters confess a truth about themselves in conversation. Those two scenes seemed to ring true to me, and more of that was lacking in the film.  I'm sure the film was exploited for its mature content, but I would be doing this film a big disservice if I said that this film is nothing more then a sexually explicit film and nothing else.

The film is about two characters who seem to be drawn to each other.  Money and sex are the catalyst that put them together, but their is something else, which the movie never quite delves into that draws them together.  Florence is played by Molly Parker , and Richard is played by Peter Sarsgaard.  These two actors do a wonderful job inhabiting their characters.  It makes the movie compelling to watch.  I'm sure with lesser actors this would not have been such an interesting film.

Like I said the film does drag in spots, and I do feel Wayne Wang puts filler in as we see our characters wandering Las Vegas.  I would have liked more honest dialogue between the two and to know why they are this way, and who they really are.  But I'm not going to say don't see this film because of its weak points.  I like the honesty of the characters and some of the erotic scenes are interesting.  Both actors are beautiful, and there is no averting ones eyes when their on screen.  You are almost a voyeur of sorts, and the director does this on purpose.  It's that voyeuristic feeling that compels the audience to watch.

In the end the film is open ended.  You decide how you think it goes.  Their is no moral high ground here.  Sex is for pleasure in this film, and it shows how we sometimes define it as love or lust.   The film shows that there is a fine line between lust and love, and that both are not necessarily bad.  The film was shot on digital video and the photography is pretty intimate, which adds to the films appeal.

If your interested in compelling characters and some erotic imagery I think you'll like the film.  The film was written by four individuals including the director Wayne Wang.  Also I was pleasantly surprised to see Miranda July as one of the writers here.  I consider Ms July a very good filmmaker in her own right and her film Me and You and Everyone We Know is a superb film.  I believe that it is Miranda July's and Ms Siri Hustvedt's writing that makes it ring true.  They bring a women's perspective, and maybe that's what makes the film so viewable.  All in all A good film, and one that shouldn't be overlooked. 

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