Zurich 2012 - The Sessions
Posted on Saturday September 22, 2012, 22:48 by Simon Braund in Under The Radar
It was Helen Hunts turn to add to her already groaning trophy cabinet last night. The actress-producer-director collected a Zurich Festival Golden Eye Award to add to her collection of Emmys, Golden Globes, SAGs, People’s Choises and, oh yes, her Best Actress Oscar for 1997’s As Good As It Gets.
Following the ceremony and a convivial Q&A with Hunt, her latest film, writer-director Ben Lewin’s The Sessions, received its European premiere. Based on the writings of Mark O’Brien, a poet and award-winning essayist, profoundly disabled by a bout of polio, the film focuses on O’Brien’s experiences with a sex surrogate (a therapist whose methods include actual nookie with clients) which he recounted in a 1990 article for The Sun, an eclectic American arts mag, not to be confused with the British tabloid of Page 3 Stunnahs! fame. You can read the piece, the basis for Lewin’s script, here: http://www.readability.com/read?url=http percent3A percent2F percent2Fwww.pacificnews.org percent2Fmarko percent2Fsex-surrogate.html
In the film, Hunt, playing sex surrogate Cheryl Green, turns in another perfectly judged performance. It’s a courageous one too; at the age of 49 (although you’d never know it), she spends the majority of her screen time stark, tackle-out naked. But as good as Hunt is, acting honours for The Sessions go to John Hawkes who, playing O’Brien, a man robbed of movement (although, cruelly, not of sensation) from the neck down and who lived most of his life in an iron lung, delivers a simply astonishing performance. With only 90-degree movement of his head to rely on, Hawkes, who was Oscar nominated for his role in 2010’s Winter’s Bone, conveys more shades of emotion than most actors could muster with their entire bodies. True to the picture of O’Brien that emerges from is writing, particularly his marvelous poetry, Hawkes renders him funny, fiercely intelligent, emotionally vulnerable yet brave enough to confront his deepest needs and desires - all without a shred of sentimentality. If he doesn’t get another Oscar nod for this, Empire will eat its ZFF trucker cap - which, of course, it doesn’t have; not nearly Euro-chic enough for Zurich.
The film which, also stars William H. Macy and Moon Bloodgood, will make its UK debut at the London Film Festival in October.
Today, the ZFF is marked by a screening of Training Day writer David Ayer’s highly anticipated cop flick End Of Watch, and of Nicholas Jaracki’s financial drama Arbitrage, which has been generating high-pitched Oscar buzz for Richard Gere.