Review: ‘No Sex Last Night’

A postmodern helping of ham on wry, "No Sex Last Night" is a lab experiment in contempo coupledom conducted by French photographer Sophie Calle and the noncommittal object of her affections -- hunky, morose and broke American Greg Shephard. Armed with his 'n' hers video cameras, the duo set out across the U.S. in an ailing, vintage Cadillac, keeping visual diaries that they later merged. Result is a rocky road movie that melds performance art with vestiges of existentialism to bittersweet and surprisigly entertaining effect. Exhibition will be limited to highly specialized venues.

A postmodern helping of ham on wry, “No Sex Last Night” is a lab experiment in contempo coupledom conducted by French photographer Sophie Calle and the noncommittal object of her affections — hunky, morose and broke American Greg Shephard. Armed with his ‘n’ hers video cameras, the duo set out across the U.S. in an ailing, vintage Cadillac, keeping visual diaries that they later merged. Result is a rocky road movie that melds performance art with vestiges of existentialism to bittersweet and surprisigly entertaining effect. Exhibition will be limited to highly specialized venues.

In January ’92, Calle and Shephard, who had met in a bar two years earlier, set out together from Gotham. Barely speaking to each other, they confide to their video cameras as they share meals, hotel rooms and garage visits en route to California.

Pushing 39 and eager to be desired, the adventuresome Sophie is determined to snare Greg, whose closest personal attachment seems to be to his car. Weary, depressed and pseudo-spiritual, he’s no prize, apart from his craggy good looks.

Although they appear to have little in common except a wordless urge for forward motion, Sophie and Greg subject themselves to a slightly deranged arranged marriage at a drive-through Vegas chapel, prompting changes in what passes for their relationship. Will they consummate their union? And more important — will the car hold out?

The experimental setup of two people and a camera on a cross-country drive was explored with formal rigor by Jim Benning in the mid-’70s, but the scenario of two people and two cameras adds a twist that gave the co-helmers plenty to work with in the editing room.

Visually, pic has little more going for it than the average homevideo blown up to 35mm, but the relatively high-stakes intellectual/emotional dare at work keeps things interesting. Musical accompaniment, from Mozart to the Cowboy Junkies, is always apt.

Item was originally shown on video at last year’s Telluride fest under the title “Double Blind.”

No Sex Last Night

(FRENCH-U.S. -- DOCU)

Production

A Pierre Grise Distribution release (in France) of a Gemini Film, Bohen Foundation, Paris Skyline production. Produced by Paolo Branco, Jean-Rene de Fleurieu. Directed, written by Sophie Calle, Greg Shephard.

Crew

Camera (color), Calle, Shephard; editor, Michael Penhallow; sound, Brooks Williams. Reviewed at Studio des Ursulines Theater, Paris, Jan. 21, 1996. Running time: 75 MIN.

With

With: Sophie Calle, Greg Shephard.
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