Too Much Flesh

Almost the best thing to be said about Jean-Marc Barr's insubstantial 1999 debut, "Lovers," was that the actor-turned-director at least had the modesty not to star. The same virtue doesn't hold for his followup, "Too Much Flesh" -- co-directed and written with d.p. Pascal Arnold -- which completely redefines the term "vanity production." Opening with Barr sun-kissed, naked and masturbating in an Illinois cornfield, then proceeding via a drastically under-fleshed narrative to tell the tale of a man whose intimidating penis size dictated 20 years of sexual abstinence until a French babe sashays along to break the dry spell, this empty, unconvincing drama looks unlikely to see too much exposure of any kind.

Almost the best thing to be said about Jean-Marc Barr’s insubstantial 1999 debut, “Lovers,” was that the actor-turned-director at least had the modesty not to star. The same virtue doesn’t hold for his followup, “Too Much Flesh” — co-directed and written with d.p. Pascal Arnold — which completely redefines the term “vanity production.” Opening with Barr sun-kissed, naked and masturbating in an Illinois cornfield, then proceeding via a drastically under-fleshed narrative to tell the tale of a man whose intimidating penis size dictated 20 years of sexual abstinence until a French babe sashays along to break the dry spell, this empty, unconvincing drama looks unlikely to see too much exposure of any kind.

Basically a shagfest with delusions of content, the English-language film is the second in the directors’ Liberty trilogy on the freedom to love. While “Lovers” went out under the Dogma banner, the new, digitally shot offering maintains many of the Danish group’s tenets of technical austerity without adhering to its codes. Put more bluntly, it’s a cheap quickie without a budget.

Set in a present-day Illinois farming community, the story centers on 35-year-old landowner Lyle (Barr), who lives chastely with his buttoned-up fundamentalist wife (Rosanna Arquette). She remains faithful to the memory of her deceased first husband and fearful of the legendary dimensions of her new man’s member, which, naturally, the audience never gets to size up.

Things change when Vernon (Ian Vogt), an old childhood friend of Lyle’s who’s now a celebrated author, returns to town with his Parisian clinch, Juliette (Elodie Bouchez). It’s only a matter of time before bookish Vern’s sexual inadequacies are exposed and Juliette leads love-starved Lyle into the cornfield. But when their libertarian sexual tryst becomes public domain and their free-thinking ideas start to contaminate the puritanical community, the local Bible-thumpers turn ugly.

While they all appear to take the risible material quite seriously, the urbane cast looks out of place, like they’d all rather be rummaging for bargains at the Prada sale than showing up for a harvest hoe-down. When in doubt about how to advance the wafer-thin plot, Barr and Arnold merely toss in another extended sexual tussle, with the camera endlessly exploring Bouchez’s naked body and Barr’s more strategically masked one, which may at least facilitate some video sales for this flaccid piece of posturing erotica.

Too Much Flesh

France

Production

A Toloda & Barnothing production, in co-production with TF1 Intl., with participation of Canal Plus. (International sales: TF1 Intl., France.) Produced by Pascal Arnold, Karina Grandjean, Jean-Marc Barr. Directed, written by Jean-Marc Barr, Pascal Arnold.

Crew

Camera (color, digital-video-to-35mm), Arnold; editor, Brian Schmitt; music, Irina Decermic, Misko Plavi; costume designer, Mimi Lempicka; sound (Dolby Digital), Pascal Armand; assistant directors, Nicolette Barr, Gilles Descoings; casting, Rachel Tenner. Reviewed at San Sebastian Film Festival (Open Zone), Sept. 24, 2000. Running time: 109 MIN.

With

Amy - Rosanna Arquette Juliette - Elodie Bouchez Lyle - Jean-Marc Barr Vernon - Ian Vogt Bert - Ian Brennan (English dialogue)

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