Despite Ann Widdecombe's prudish umbrage (she complained that by passing it uncut for consenting adults, the BBFC had 'thwarted the will of parliament'), the 'most explicit movie in British cinema history' turns out to be a rather beautiful experimental film. Or as The Sun newspaper would have it: 'boring'. It lasts just over an hour, over the course of which we're treated to an elliptical love story, told in flashbacks as the bloke (Kieran O'Brien) remembers an affair with an American student, Lisa (Margo Stilley).
His memories flit between the gigs the two of them shared (Black Rebel Motorcycle Gang; Franz Ferdinand; Michael Nyman; The Von Bondies) and their sexual escapades - which are indeed explicit. Shooting on a DV camera with two relatively unknown actors (Stilley appears under an alias and had never acted before), Winterbottom gets about as close to the action as humanly possible...
You might expect porno, and it is erotic in places (ever notice how critics hate to admit that movies can be arousing?), but more often the effect is poetic. There is tenderness and feeling here, a yearning collusion between actors, camera, and the audience. Rather like a song cycle, this little cameo of a movie traces the progress of a love affair through a couple's sexual history.
Sex in movies is usually a pretty dry business. Despite that actress cliché about only doing nudity if it's essential to the script, most sex scenes are only there as a kind of dramatic punctuation mark, and more importantly, to sell some tickets. Not surprisingly, they're usually short, uninspired and generally unsatisfying.
European films have always been more risqué than the Anglo-Saxon variety, and particularly so over the last few years, when directors like Catherine Breillat have exploded the boundaries between art-house and pornography, the intellect and the body.
Winterbottom's film is not porno. It doesn't exist to exploit either its actors or its audience. Instead it sets out to explore how sexual experimentation can become a voyage of discovery between lovers; how gradations of physical intimacy impress themselves upon the heart and soul. It's not a perfect film, nor even a great one (I could certainly have done without the pretentious framing scenes in the arctic), but it's another brave and moving effort from a filmmaker who won't stop asking questions of himself or his audience. You might almost call it penetrating.