The Principles of Lust (18)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner08/03/2004

Two out of Five stars
Running time: 109 mins

Supposedly hard-hitting drama that seems devised purely to taunt Daily Mail readers – it trots out explicit scenes of sex, drugs and violence, but ultimately has little to say.

If Principles of Lust was a better film, its debut at the London Film Festival might have caused a bit more of a stir, given that several scenes appear to have been arrived at by a group of people getting together and asking themselves, “What are the most shocking things we can get away with onscreen?” The result is laughably over the top and it never really works, despite good performances and confident direction by Penny Woolcock.

Binges, Orgies And Bare-Knuckle Child Fighting

Set in Sheffield, the film stars Alec Newman as Paul, a wannabe writer who falls for single mother Juliette (Sienna Guillory) around the same time that he meets hedonistic photographer Billy (Marc Warren, now a familiar TV face).

The film then jumps forward a few months to find Alec living with Juliette and her son (Alexander Popplewell), but increasingly finding himself under the pull of Billy, who is something of a Bad Influence and drags him off to drug-taking binges, orgies and the private world of 12 year old bare-knuckle-fighting.

To be honest, the introduction of the 12 Year Old Fight Club is the point at which it all starts to go downhill, even if Woolcock does stop short of actually showing us 12 year olds beating the crap out of each other. One presumably unforeseen drawback is that those scenes only serve to remind you of David Fincher’s Fight Club and in doing so, of how Principles of Lust doesn’t say anything about masculinity, violence or male friendship that Fincher’s film doesn’t say ten times better.

Only Intention Is To Shock

Frequently, it seems as if Woolcock’s only intention is to shock: other scenes include a messy sex scene involving menstrual blood and a full-on, explicit orgy sequence in which either there’s some highly evolved digital trickery going on or Marc Warren is engaging in actual unprotected sex. The problem is that the material doesn’t warrant such explicit scenes – the orgy could and should have been simulated - and as such, it feels like Woolcock is trying too hard.

Another problem is that the film appears to lack the courage of its convictions – it’s clearly set up for something Very Nasty Indeed to happen between Alec, Billy and Juliette, so the conclusion of the film is something of a disappointment. It’s a shame, then, that the script is such a let-down, as the performances, particularly by Warren, are extremely good and the film itself is impressively shot and edited.

In short, Principles of Lust may well cause a paragraph or two of disgust from the direction of The Daily Mail but the fact remains that the film is a disappointment and it’s a shame that the material isn’t strong enough to justify its explicit content. Still, it’ll be worth keeping an eye on Penny Woolcock, as her heart is clearly in the right place.

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Content updated: 17/10/2017 19:33

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