Falling somewhere between Skinemax and Last Tango In Paris, brilliantlove undermines a decent art world premise by falling in love with its sexual frankness. But there’s nothing new about the movie’s rampant nudity and simulated sex, which in the age of RedTube has lost the ability to shock anyhow.Manchester (Liam Browne) is an artist, a hipster marooned in the English countryside. His girlfriend Noon (Nancy Trotter) is a taxidermist. She says taxidermy means “rearranging skin.” Which is something director Ashley Horner does plenty of in his sophomore film.
Manchester and Noon are usually drunk, on E and screwing. If you look closely, you’ll see Browne’s penis in the closing credits. Most of the major bodily fluids make cameo appearances. This isn’t offensive—although the blue-haired old lady next to me made a hasty exit—but just kind of boring and not worth such relentless exposure 30 years after these taboos were broken. (One line about masturbating into a cat saucer is straight out of Godard’s Weekend, from 1967.)
Anyway, the plot takes about 45 minutes to cohere, but revolves around a shady art collector discovering some boudoir shots of the couple, taking Manchester the photographer under his wing and propelling him to fame. Meanwhile Noon is unaware that Manchester is building his reputation on T&A.
brilliantlove (the lower-case, contracted title is the first clue to its pretension) could have been an effective high art parody, looking at the conflict between the person and the product, art and commerce, erotica and porn. But it’s too ponderous, too in love with its own “risqué” graphicness. Also, the treatment of slimy dealers and art world excess—Manchester shows up to his gallery opening sporting mascara, a are midriff and a fur coat usually confined to BET videos—is over the top.
Browne and Trotter are likeable and willing to bare all. They seem like capable actors in the few moments they bare more than their skin, but it happens rarely. Simon Tindall’s photography is the movie’s real saving grace. Exurban England looks fantastic in his many twilight shots. And especially early on, the movie attains a lyrical tempo. Working with the “magic hour” light, Tindall briefly makes you think you’re watching a soft-porn Terrence Malick project.
Speaking of, Manchester’s dealer tells him that his work is not pornography because “porn is artless.” If only Horner had paid more attention to that line.
Click here for future showtimes at the Tribeca Film Festival.