Henry & June

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This is the movie that forced the MPAA to create a new rating. Maybe I'm just getting old, but I can't figure out *why*! There is a fair amount nudity in the movie, but the sex scenes are generally not all that erotic.

HENRY & JUNE is supposed to be the true story of Anais Nin & Henry Miller, both famous writers. The "June" in the title is Miller's wife, June, a woman whose very picture alters the lives of characters in this movie. Perhaps it's the sort of movie that if you're a fan of either writer, it works on the level of providing lots of background. Since I'm not, I didn't like the movie as much as I expected to.

It really doesn't have much of a plot. The movie follows Anais & her husband Hugo, sort of '30s French yuppies, as they drift from place to place and discuss that Anais will probably have an affair with an older man. Enter Henry Miller. The relationships between Anais, Hugo, and Henry are quite complicated. Anais wants Henry, both as a fellow writer and as a person who clearly enjoys sexual experimentation. Henry wants sex wherever he can get it, but he's very cautious around Anais. Hugo pretty much ignores the situation, though it's clear he knows more about it than Anais thinks he does.

The performances are okay, but not much to write home about. The actress portraying Anais Nin is particularly good (a new, young Spanish actress, playing Anais with a wonderful French accent). The French accents clash with the strong Brooklynese of both Fred Ward (playing Henry Miller) and Uma Thurman (playing June). With the exception of Anais, the characters were in desperate need of charisma transplants to pull this film off. Kaufman has cast his movies very successfully in the past, and I'm not sure why he didn't succeed this time (though Alec Baldwin was originally supposed to have played Miller).

The photography in this movie is lovely. The point of view in this movie wanders---many scenes are shot in mirrors, so it's a little disconcerting at times. The distinctions between dreams and reality are not very well defined, which made reality a little difficult to follow. The dialogue is fine, but the plot is *very* slow-going, and would have benefited by a little tightening. There are some good scenes, and whenever June confronts someone, you know she often speaks the truth. There are also a few lovely observations during the course of the movie about sex and desire, and these observations are often quite subtle.

On the whole, I can only give this movie a 6 on the movie scale. The movie promises a lot but fails to deliver. If you want to see a truly erotic movie, go back and rent THE UNBEARABLE LIGHTNESS OF BEING. Kaufman did it right that time....

While I don't think there are particular spoilers in this movie, I suppose I ought to warn you just in case...

Perhaps the main reasons for the new rating relate more to the treatment of morality in the movie. There is quite a bit of nudity in the movie, both in a long parade of under-costumed art students, and in several scenes in a brothel. When Hugo tells Anais he'll do anything sexual for her, she takes him to a brothel and they watch female prostitutes perform sexually for each other. When the prostitutes ask them to join in, they decline. While the lesbian aspect of the film has been discussed quite a bit, the most explicit material is in the afore-mentioned scene in the brothel. And it really wasn't all that erotic---the scene in LIGHTNESS when one woman photographs the other was much more charged.

While Anais spends most of the movie lusting after June, it's clear nothing ever would have worked out between them. Anais is a cultured European, and June is a Brooklyn taxi dancer. Anais is generally very controlled, and June is just explosive. June is portrayed as an unbelievably manipulative bitch in this movie. Henry is a somewhat softer version of June, but he has the ability to be an artist, something that June, even though she supports him, just doesn't understand.