TORONTO (CP) - With its eye-poppingly explicit sex scenes, Lie With Me - opening Friday in Toronto - is not exactly an average night out at the local multiplex.
But at the recent Toronto International Film Festival, director Clement Virgo insisted the hard-core material was necessary to make the relationship in the movie more authentic. "As a filmmaker I want to be truthful," Virgo said during the festival as he sipped coffee at a cafe in his downtown neighbourhood.
"My approach wasn't so much to show nudity as it was to be viscerally honest and to have the audience feel like 'I'm watching something that's truthful."'
The 'truth' Virgo aims to portray is the raw sexual desire of 20-something nymphet Leila (played by The L Word's Lauren Lee Smith - see photo) as she navigates her budding relationship with David (rising star Eric Balfour, who has appeared on TV's Six Feet Under and 24).
For Virgo, whose previous film Love Comes Down received nine Genie nominations, the material wasn't difficult to find.
Lie With Me, shot in the city for three weeks in July 2004, is based on a novel by his romantic partner, Tamara Faith Berger.
"When I read it, I immediately thought 'wow this would make an interesting movie,' he said. "You rarely see movies about sort of raw, visceral female sexuality. That, to be honest, really terrified me because I didn't know how I would translate that feeling I had reading the book . . . to film."
From the beginning, however, he realized that holding back wasn't an option.
"I knew that once I took on this material that I couldn't be coy about it, that I had to be as bold as I could. I didn't plan on making sure that the sheets were draped over the body just so . . . The camera was there. The camera caught what it caught."
Indeed, the camera catches just about everything.
Leila is shown masturbating, watching porn and, of course, in seemingly endless sex scenes with David, where very little is left to the imagination.
All of the actors, said Virgo, had a unified mission.
"When we all decided to make this film together, we all agreed, we said we would do what it takes to make this film feel authentic and all three of us agreed that we would leave it in the room, emotionally, what we had to do to get there," he said.
It's part of a trend that's been seen in recent films like Michael Winterbottom's 9 Songs, which caused a stir for showing almost non-stop onscreen sex.
In the case of Virgo's film, early reviews have been somewhat mixed. One aspect of the film that has been repeatedly remarked on, however, is its depiction of Toronto.
The city is instantly recognizable throughout the steamy summer portrayed in the movie. David and Leila meet in playgrounds and at nightclubs, prompting one reviewer to note that the film makes Canada's largest city look like "a great place to get laid."
"I love this city. . . . It's a great place to live. I wanted to show that," said Virgo.
"Normally on film you don't see Toronto, you see the inside of buildings or the city is depicted as a kind of hostile, harsh place that's going to take away your dreams."
Virgo said his next film is set in Halifax and deals with race relations.© The Canadian Press