German filmmaker Andreas Dresen's Cloud 9 is the story of a married woman who begins an affair with a man she meets. The film is very sexual and Dresen's camera shy's away from nothing when it comes to that sexuality. We see the unbridled passion as these two lovers nakedly writhe on the man's apartment floor after only just meeting. The sex is intense and it is vivid. This isn't a movie about love so much as it is a film about sexual longing and fulfillment. I am obliged at this point to mention the fact that the aforementioned sexually-liberated woman is sixty-five and her lover is seventy-one.
One's initial reaction may very well be a gag reflex of sorts. We have no problem seeing two hot, young movie stars in such precarious positioning. Hollywood does it all the time, though perhaps never to the obviously European openness of Dresen's film. But put a pair of decrepit ancient bodies on show for such acts, their folds and fat flailing all about, and suddenly there is a major ick factor involved. Of course such a reaction reeks of ageism, but then again, it is what it is, and what Cloud 9 is, regardless of age or wrinkliness of those aforementioned nakedly writing old bodies, is a story about a sexual awakening.
Desire, lust, love, loss, pain, anguish, angst, fear - they are all there in the faces and bodies of these two brave actors. Reminiscent of Liv Ullmann's Faithless in mood and Carlos Reygadas' Japon in brashness, Dresen's film creeps along with a strangely quiet longing, finally arriving at an anti-catharsis of sorts, and in turn makes its way toward the edges of Bergman or Tarkovsky territory. Perhaps not as deeply sanctimonious as either auteur, nor as deeply cinematic, Dresen nonetheless weaves together a formidable film that, gag reflex aside, ick factor aside, has several moments of raw, naked power unmatched in any American dramatic film out this year. [09/04/09]