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In `Erosion,' a couple's trespasses are sensual

April 21, 2006|Kevin Crust | Times Staff Writer

The deliberately enigmatic drama "Erosion" teases the audience into complicity in much the same way that the character Gabe (Emmanuel Xuereb) lures buttoned-down Irene (Charis Michelsen) into a sexually charged game. While Gabe tosses matchbooks with addresses at Irene's feet, writer-director Ann Lu judiciously dispenses exposition as she probes the psychological edges of accepted behavior through her characters' pursuit of higher stakes.

Gabe invites the married Irene to dinner at a Beverly Hills mansion that she presumes to be his. Their next date takes place at a considerably more down-market home and Gabe reveals what's really on his mind -- an ongoing buffet of breaking and entering with indiscreet sex as an appetizer. Meanwhile, his motivations are suggested murkily through a series of abrupt phone calls to a terminally ill woman and a curt meeting with a guy named Steve (Oz Perkins).

Irene's stuck in a monotonous marriage, so it's no mystery why she eventually succumbs to Gabe's invitation to add intercourse to the menu. In the film's production notes, Lu writes she was inspired to write the screenplay as a nightmarish fantasy by the deterioration her own marriage to the film's cinematographer, Neal L. Fredericks ("The Blair Witch Project"), who was killed in a plane crash after completing the film and he and Lu had split.

Even without that tragic twist, there's an eeriness to the film that sometimes works against what's happening between Gabe and Irene. Gabe initially comes off as more creepy than seductive, and it's a mystery how he convinced Irene to show up the first time. It's only after we see Irene's dull domestic circumstances that it's understood that she's hungry for something beyond sex.

The more kink Gabe adds to their repertoire the more Irene seems to enjoy it. She particularly likes the idea that they're stealing people's lives by entering their homes, cooking in their kitchens and soiling their sheets.

The film toys with the grand themes of love and death as it understatedly moves toward an unsatisfying denouement. Although the narrative is not always compelling, Lu subtly conveys sensuality without nudity in the sex scenes, and something about the boldness of the exercise keeps you watching.



MPAA rating: Unrated

A LifeSize Entertainment release. Writer-director Ann Lu. Producer Peiti Feng. Cinematographer Neal L. Fredericks. Editor Anthony Cava. Music Vincent Gillioz. Production designer Chris Davis. Running time: 1 hour, 40 minutes.

At Laemmle's Fairfax, 7907 Beverly Blvd., (323) 655-4010.

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