Review: ‘Brilliantlove’

Low-budget Brit pic "Brilliantlove" tries to talk a good game about eroticism but essentially it's soft porn for hipsters.

Low-budget Brit pic “Brilliantlove” tries to talk a good game about eroticism, the commodification of passion and the fragility of young love, but essentially it’s soft porn for hipsters. Beautifully lensed soft porn, it must be said, with a groovy indie soundtrack, but nevertheless, pic’s NC-17-level explicitness will limit exposure for this tale of two twentysomething artists in love. Discerning auds are more likely to give the film a go, but are also more inclined to criticize its callow philosophizing, silly last-act melodrama and less-than-brilliant dialogue, even if the sex scenes are pretty hot.

It’s torpid high summer, and in a converted garage somewhere in northern England, amateur photographer Manchester (Liam Browne) and taxidermist Noon (Nancy Trotter Landry) spend most of their time having sex; Manchester frequently takes photos while they’re going at it. When they’re not having sex, they talk about having sex, or make general pillow talk. Once in a while, Noon does the odd bit of taxidermy, making this perhaps the first film since Peter Greenaway’s “A Zed and Two Noughts” to feature such a similar mix of eroticism and dead animals.

At first formally similar to Michael Winterbottom’s art-porn pic “9 Songs” with its blend of carnality and cool, but shot on a better camera, the first half of “Brilliantlove” is quite pleasurable to watch — and not just because the leads are attractive and there’s an inherently voyeuristic thrill in watching them shag. As an exercise in revealing character through sexual behavior, pic works pretty well, and the cast and helmer Ashley Horner (who’s made one previous feature, “The Other Possibility”) competently evoke the hungry, no-limits intensity of a new romance’s first flush.

Unfortunately, things swiftly deteriorate in the second half. When millionaire pornographer Franny (Michael Hodgson) finds a packet of Manchester’s sexy snaps, he’s so wowed he offers to let the couple move into his mansion and get Manchester a one-man show at an art gallery.

Cue art-world folk rhapsodizing pretentiously over Manchester’s work (“Beauty is this rejection of lighting, the lack of choreography. It leads to images without artificiality!”). Much of this is actually more embarrassing than watching the couple have sex.

Sean Conway’s script certainly demonstrates no ear for dialogue, handing characters all manner of silly things to say (like Noon’s declaration at one point that she’s “horny as a field of stags”) and, for some irritating reason, having them constantly use each other’s names in a way people never do in everyday speech. The dialogue is far more convincing when they just talk dirty to each other, falling back on porn cliches that, in their unadorned simplicity, have far more power to shock and arouse.

Brilliantlove

U.K.

Production

A North East Finance presentation in association with Northern Film and Media of a Pinball Films production. (International sales: the Film Sales Co., New York.) Produced by Ashley Horner, Karl Liegis. Directed by Ashley Horner. Screenplay, Sean Conway.

Crew

Camera (color, widescreen, HD), Simon Tindall; editor, Ben Wilson; music, Sol Seppy; music supervisor, Connie Farr; production designers, Julie Ann Horan, Emma Crossley; art director, Joy Sanders; costume designer, Mel O'Connor; sound (Dolby Digital), Huggy Wright, Susan Pennington; sound designer, Ben Wilson; assistant director, Stuart J.C. Williams. Reviewed on video, Edinburgh, June 24, 2010. (In Edinburgh Film Festival -- British Gala; Tribeca Film Festival.) Running time: 78 MIN.

With

Liam Browne, Nancy Trotter Landry, Michael Hodgson, Arabella Arnott, Stephen Bent, Cliff Burnett, Stephen Beardsley.
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