CONTROVERSIAL, sexually graphic and explicit, Intimacy has been one of the most talked about films of the year.
Full frontal nudity is nothing new and more and more directors continue to break taboos.
Director Patrick Chereau does shock audiences with his ultra-revealing close-ups but this also highlights the love-free clinical acts that the main characters undertake.
Intimacy was condemned by some critics as pornography due mainly to a stark oral sex scene that has wrongly re-focused the aim of the film.
It is a composite creation merging two Hanif Kureishi's tales: one called Intimacy the other Nightlight.
Mark Rylance is Jay, a disillusioned, middle-aged divorced bar manager whose own spirits are getting weaker
Each Wednesday, at 2pm,a woman arrives in his squalid,dingy basement flat in South East London where they have cold, hungry sex.
The untidy flat with its empty bottles and over-spilling ashtrays is an emotional wilderness where they twosome play out their heavy duty, sordid non-love affair.
The couple do not utter a word to each other in the process. The intimacy is one of calculation.
The soul-less coupling continues until one day Jay decides he wants to know more about this woman called Claire, played by the very brave New Zealand actress Kerry Fox.
Jay follows her to a pub where he discovers she is an actress as well as a drama teacher and housewife rolled into one.
Her husband, played by Timothy Spall, is a taxi driver who plays pool and befriends Jay who cynically doesn't reveal his intentions.
Spall excels at playing downtrodden characters and this is another fine example of his ability to make the most unsavoury of people seem likeable.
Away from her sex sessions, short-tempered Claire teaches her students including Marianne Faithful playing a very frumpy Betty.
A boozy party with low-life characters and drug-taking scenes contrasts with the everyday world outside where life goes on.
Jay finally confronts his own real feelings and so, too, does Claire. Everyone is affected by their secret dangerous liaisons.
The sex scenes are far from erotic. It is fact the Joylessness of Sex on show here.
But Intimacy is a compelling, thought provoking look at relationships and one that deserved a wider distribution than the one it was given.
This winner of the Berlin International Film Festival ends at Liverpool Odeon, London Road on Thursday 23 August 2001 (8.15pm).