If love is the universal language, sex is its most popular idiom. That’s certainly the case at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival, where several of the most talked-about movies offered their share of naked limbs.
The least controversial of the bunch is Kinsey, a clever and often amusing biopic about sex researcher Alfred Kinsey, a university professor who shocked the nation in the 1940s and ’50s when he published surveys cataloguing American’s sexual habits. The movie shows Kinsey, played by Liam Neesom, forthrightly discussing sex. And Garden State’s Peter Sarsgaard, who portrays one of Kinsey’s researchers, takes it all off in one scene.
More shocking offerings included the following:
• A Hole in My Heart
The latest from Lukas Moodysson, the controversial Swedish director whose previous films include F- – – – – g Amal (1999), Together (2000) and Lilya 4-ever (2003), features two men and a woman rendezvousing in a squalid apartment to make an amateur porn movie. They drink, have sex and trash each other and the apartment; all the while, the teenage son of one of the men tries to block out the lurid goings-on in the room next door by clamping headphones over his ears and blasting music.
• Nine Songs
Who ever thought sex could be boring? It is in this film, directed by Michael Winterbottom (24-Hour Party People, Code 46). An Englishman and a young American woman have an affair, alternating between engaging in graphic sex and going to rock concerts. Even at just 65 minutes, the movie seems long.
• Anatomy of Hell
French director Catherine Breillat, whose 1999 film Romance was anything but romantic, again pushes the boundaries with this examination of a woman’s sexuality.
Another big trend at the festival (running through Saturday) is biopics. In addition to Kinsey, filmgoers also could catch the life stories of singer Ray Charles in Ray (starring Jamie Foxx) and crooner Bobby Darin in Beyond the Sea (starring Kevin Spacey, who also directed). Additionally, The Sea Inside tells the real-life story of Ramon Sampedro, a Spanish quadriplegic who fought the Spanish legal system for the right to die. Javier Bardem (most recently seen as the drug lord in Collateral) is memorable as Sampedro, and his performance is likely to be mentioned at Oscar time. All three movies are due in theaters by year’s end.
The star quotient has been high in Toronto – celebs looking to hype forthcoming films to the international entertainment press corps have included Sandra Bullock (Crash), Sean Penn (The Assassination of Richard Nixon), Kevin Spacey (Beyond the Sea), Hilary Swank (Red Dust), Annette Bening and Jeremy Irons (plugging Being Julia), and Neve Campbell (When Will I Be Loved).
Cell phones have been an ongoing nuisance at the festival, and this year, Blackberries also showed up with troubling frequency. At a screening of Keane (a drama about a man on the edge of an emotional breakdown), three Hollywood types sitting all in a row spent more time reading and answering email on their Blackberries than watching the film. Is it any wonder these addictive devices are known as Crackberries?