Original and often provocative, "The Sadness of Sex," a multimedia performance piece about the mysterious magic of love, is a demanding but not always easy or enjoyable film to watch. Excessive MTV-like style and consciously disjointed narrative undercut the emotional impact of the dense material, which is most appropriate for mature audiences who have experienced the bittersweet taste of love and its aftermath.

Original and often provocative, “The Sadness of Sex,” a multimedia performance piece about the mysterious magic of love, is a demanding but not always easy or enjoyable film to watch. Excessive MTV-like style and consciously disjointed narrative undercut the emotional impact of the dense material, which is most appropriate for mature audiences who have experienced the bittersweet taste of love and its aftermath. Commercial prospects for disturbing film are skimpy, though it should travel the international festival road and perhaps even reach the arthouse circuit.

Comprising 15 vignettes of varying lengths, “The Sadness of Sex” is a poignant comedy about the cyclical phases of courtship, romance, passion — and heart-wrenching breakup. Exquisitely executed piece, enacted onstage by Peta Wilson with live audience, assumes the nature of a surreal odyssey that is wry and witty, manic yet neurotic, profound yet childishly silly.

Film chronicles the inner journey of a hopelessly romantic middle-aged man as he recalls in a stream of consciousness his eternal search for true love. Interweaving the logic of a dream with that of everyday life, the monologue moves effortlessly and seamlessly from one realm of reality to another. Barry Yourgrau, who wrote the original book and collaborated on the script with helmer Rupert Wainwright, dives headfirst into the exhilaration, craziness and contradictions that mark modern sexual relations between men and women.

Each of the 15 vignettes is directed in a distinct visual style and accompanied by a different kind ofmusic. Nonetheless, so as not to risk boring viewers with an overly static piece, helmer has gone to the other extreme, bombarding the screen with an incessant parade of images and sounds, with the effect of overwhelming and sometimes drowning the text. It’s telling that the most emotionally resonant segments, such as the gorgeously lighted “Elm,” are the quieter ones that enable actor Wilson to display his impressive voice and storytelling skills without constantly cutting away from him.

That said, meticulous attention has gone into every detail of the elaborately mounted production. Tech credits, including Franco De Cotiis’ production design, Mariska M. Nicholson’s costumes and, particularly, Andrew Pienaar’s lensing and Doug Johnston’s sound, are nothing short of stunning.

The Sadness of Sex

Production

A Skyvision Partners production. Produced by David Lancaster, Rupert Maconick. Executive producers, Jim Reid, Howard Rosen. Supervising producer, Albert Botha. Directed by Rupert Wainwright. Screenplay, Barry Yourgrau, Wainwright, based on the book by Yourgrau.

Crew

Camera (B&W, color), Andre Pienaar; editor, Brian Berdan; music supervisors, Budd Carr, Amy Dunn; production design, Franco De Cotiis; costume design, Mariska M. Nicholson; sound (Ultra-stereo), Doug Johnston; associate producers, John Laing, Simon Walshaw, Christine Carr, Amy Krell; casting, Gloria Mann. Reviewed at Hamptons Film Festival, Oct 20, 1995. Running time: 85 MIN.

With

Peta Wilson.
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