There no room for prudes in the illuminating movie touch me not nu ma atinge ma where characters grapple with the pleasures and pains of their naked bodies and how they relate to them. This first feature by young Romanian writer-director Adina Pintilie, who also appears as herself in the film, is striking for its intelligence, self-assurance and originality. Though not every moment is fascinating to watch, most moments are, and adult audiences should find its frank presentation of the diversity of intimacy thought-provoking and possibly therapeutic. Its subject will make it a love-it-or-leave-it title for festival and art houses.
The film is beautifully crafted with sure-handed sophistication that should make it an award contender in Berlin competition, where it bowed. Each scene is set in a space neutralized by the whiteness of Adrian Cristea’s calming sets, some of them appearing to be digitally retouched. Just the opposite effect is achieved by the jarring modern soundtrack that pops up for brief intervals in the most unexpected places, destroying the illusion of watching a documentary.
Deliberately refusing to position itself as fiction or non-fiction, the pic walks an ambiguous tightrope made more unsettling by its charged sexual content. It’s hard to say who of the characters is an actor and who isn’t, so realistic are the performances. But one thing is certain. As people explore their bodies onscreen, they aren’t alone. Pintilie’s cameras are there, gently, respectfully invading the most private spheres of sexual response; sometimes disappearing during on-camera dramas, sometimes outed in plain sight, so we remember there is a mechanical eye watching people undress and touch themselves and each other. At certain times, Pintilie’s own tired, knowing face appears in a monitor like the Wizard of Oz, posing weighted questions to the person on the other side of the lens.
Actually, most of the main players are stage actors, though so skillful they appear to be non-pros. Laura Benson plays Laura, a woman somewhere around 50 who has issues with trust and safety in intimate encounters. In the first scene, she has hired a well-built, tattooed call boy of few words, and sits in a chair watching him shower and masturbate. The camera does a slow pan over his thighs, groin and stomach — it’s just about the only “perfect” body in the film — and one wonders why Laura isn’t participating.
Touch Me Not Adina pintilie first feature is an eye opening look at human sexuality on the uncertain,