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The Center Of The World Review

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A part-time stripper reluctantly accepts a lonely businessman's offer of a paid weekend away. Having established some basic, professional rules, however, the pair slowly begin to develop feelings for each other, and the lines become increasingly blurred.

★★★★★

Forget all the rumours, because for all the sex - and there is plenty - inherent in Wayne Wang's treatise on human nature, to focus on it would be to miss the point. The subject here is relationships rather than nookie.

Examining the sense of loneliness perpetuated by today's fast-moving society, Wang pitches together the unlikely pair of Richard and Florence (Parker, in a blisteringly frank turn). He is a socially retarded computer mogul, she a struggling musician who funds her career by stripping at a local joint. And here lies their initial bond: money. He has it and will exchange it for companionship; after a brief crisis of conscience, she is willing to accept.

The power dynamic flits between the pair of them. Richard timidly approaches Florence with his proposition, only to later assert his physical dominance in an unexpected outburst. But what becomes most apparent over the course of their bizarre 'love story' is that they are two sides of the same coin. He's the businessman, but she has the commodity he needs.

As the guidelines of their arrangement (an 'everything but sex' basis) begin to disintegrate, Wang adheres to the stereotypical porn movie structure: first a blow job scene, then full penetration and, eventually, a threesome. It's a neat trick, and one made especially memorable by the sight of "other girl" Carla Gugino divulging her graphic philosophy on anal sex.

Indeed, if the hints at romance never really convince, at the very least Wang has concocted a thought-provoking look at the mire of modern-day isolation.

Ultimately hollow, but a brave, graphic look at relationships and sexuality. One sure to provoke as much discussion as tabloid furore.

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