The Center of the World (2001)

Can a movie about a sex weekend in Vegas be good without sex? Yes. Co-written, among others, by Paul Auster and Siri Hustvedt, this independent movie traces a couple who spend three days in LV following the financial arrangement of “no kissing, no penetration, 10pm to 2am only.” While there is – inevitably – some erotic action here, the movie could easily do without it – its main focus is on Florence’s attempts not to fall in love with Richard, an ultimately sweet guy who made a bank on a dotcom IPO. Ironically, her main defense is her own body and eroticism as if the growing intimacy between the two led away from it, or at least away from the vaguely kinky lap dances which Florence performs in a clubs to support her budding career as a rock band drummer.

Ultimately, however, it is not the story itself – fairly simple and, at least to my mind, bearing indelible traces of Auster’s vague existential angst – but the filming which makes The Center of the World (the title that immediately reminded me of House of Leaves‘ character of Thumper and her tattoo “Happiest Place on Earth”) so appealing, so sensual and casually slow but irresistible as it unrolls the story. Long, slow shots, interestingly (although not very original in themselves) presented retrospections, and well-matched soundtrack all come together to create this little gem. Highly recommendable.

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