“Eclipse” is an impressive debut feature from Toronto helmer Jeremy Podeswa that will elicit strong response on the arthouse circuit with its powerful blend of casual sex, eye-catching, arty camera work and witty, sophisticated dialogue. Eclectic variety of gay and straight sexual encounters may scare off some mainstream auds, but Podeswa’s assured sense of style will appeal to those looking for sexy, hip, upscale fare.
Innovative pic updates “sex, lies, and videotape” turf by capturing a series of lusty liaisons featuring 10 interconnected characters who are all part of a complex network of friends, lovers and casual acquaintances. Podeswa’s non-traditional narrative ties together this web of desire by having one participant from each encounter appear in the next intimate rendezvous, where he or she steams up the screen with another newcomer.
All these couplings are shot in stylish black-and-white, with connecting sequences about Toronto’s preparation for the upcoming solar eclipse lensed in color. High school student Angelo (Matthew Ferguson) is videotaping a documentary on eclipse fever for a school project, and his color images of people talking about the event are intercut with sex scenes in an assortment of settings, including a hotel room, an artist’s loft, a suburban living room and a crowded nightclub bathroom.
First close encounter of the erotic kind has middle-aged, middle-class Brian (John Gilbert) picking up a young hustler (Von Flores) at night, and, shortly thereafter, Brian is seen getting it on with Sylvie (Pascale Montpetit), his French-Canadian domestic. Next scene features Sylvie rolling around the floor at her English-as-a-second-language school with Gabriel, a Central American refugee (Manuel Aranguiz), and Gabriel passes the amorous torch to Sarah (Maria Del Mar) , who is the wife of his immigration lawyer.
This carnal game of musical chairs includes everything from a poignant moment of passion between two gay friends to a funny morning-after conversation where two lovers try to piece together what happened a few hours earlier. In spite of the content, pic isn’t really about steamy thrills. Podeswa’s intelligent script is more concerned with the fleeting pleasures that desire offers and how difficult it is to maintain passionate relationships.
Canadian thesps deliver uniformly strong performances, particularly Montpetit as the tough-talking domestic and Ferguson as the precocious kid with the video camera and seductive looks. Miroslaw Baszak’s camerawork is a beautiful mix of moody, black-and-white portraits, grainy video images and colorful footage of the moon and sun crossing paths, which was shot in Mexico during a 1991 solar eclipse. Ernie Tollar’s world-beat-flavored score adds an exotic edge to the impassioned proceedings. Despite modest budget, all other tech credits are excellent.
It won’t be an easy sell, but “Eclipse” will click with same urbane auds who enjoy fellow Toronto helmer Atom Egoyan’s work. Pic serves notice that Podeswa is a visual stylist to keep an eye on.