Mystery Romance Thriller
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Between Your Legs (1999)
3rd Oct 05
An adulterous affair between two sex addicts leads to blackmail, intrigue and murder.
Originally released in 1999, Between Your Legs is a stylish classy affair, a murder mystery embroiled with sex and eroticism, with dabs of Hitchcock and Argento added to the flavour of a Pedro Almodovar movie. Sound good? You betcha.
Finally released in the UK as the first of two launching titles for newly formed DVD label Nucleus Films along with The Ugliest Woman in the World (see our review here), Between Your Legs is a well-shot and brilliantly performed tale of obsession, revenge and murder that certainly backs up Nucleus’ claim to bring the best Spanish cinema to DVD.
The film establishes its credentials early with a long, but great ‘Saul Bass’ inspired credits sequence that leads to a prologue where a man returns to his house, young daughter and sexy teen babysitter (Luisa). The man and the babysitter proceed to have wild sex on the couch, but it’s soon coitus interruptus, as the man’s daughter attacks her father with a sharp stick, drawing a considerable amount of blood. Cut to: “Had 14 stitches and left home forever…” That’ll teach him.
Present day and the man has now set up a sex addicts anonymous group where member Miranda (Victoria Abril of many Almovodar films) notices Javier (Javier Bardem) because his socks keep falling down. He’s a screenwriter / producer, and through the convenient use of the screenwriting tool, the flashback, we learn he is attending the sex group because of a woman (Azucena) he met at an airport eight months ago. They had met, flirted, exchanged stories and ended up having phone sex in the airport toilets.
Back at the group, Javier admits he has a problem, but as soon as the group breaks, he’s at it again like a horny hound dog and trying it on with Miranda, who is attending the group because of her predilection for having sex with strangers whilst taking her dog for a walk every morning.
Secrets swapped over dinner, they visit her workplace, are given a phone sex tape (volume 7!) that strangely features Javier’s voice, and then proceed to have sex in an abandoned car on their walk home. Mid-bonk however, Miranda remembers her daughter’s medication and rushes home to be with her husband (police man Felix) and daughter, leaving Javier to investigate the source of the sex tape that features his voice, and to find out more about Miss Azucena’s apparent hidden agendas. Is she blackmailing him? Does she even exist? And just who is Pancho over at The Cock?
The next day a dead body is found in the abandoned car that Javier and Miranda had sex in, and Miranda’s husband Felix is assigned the murder case. When it is revealed that the murder victim was a screenwriter who had once been rejected by Javier, and with forensic evidence pointing to both him (and worse, also linking Miranda to the crime), the stage is set for much twisty-turny-ness, suspicions, betrayals and lots of wild rumpy-pumpy.
What works with Between Your Legs are the solid well-built characters, all with their own grown-up anxieties and sexual inadequacies. The film takes its time with its character build-up; yet because of the sex addict setting that allows for some great storytelling and humorous interludes, it remains quirky enough to be offbeat, but solid enough to be based in reality.
But as soon as Felix (Miranda’s husband) moves on to the case, the film becomes more of a whodunit, with the added bonus of triangular tension as the husband soon suspects his wife of having an affair with the main murder suspect. It may be a little long, and some sub-plots may seem unnecessary (Felix’s partner’s obsession with his ex-girlfriend for instance) and confusing (just what was that taxi driver doing with that package?), but there are enough believable narrative twists to keep your attention.
For a character-based film like this though the characters need to be engaging, and here both Javier and Victoria shine as the two entangled and adulterous lovers Javier and Miranda. Víctor Rueda as Azucena is good too, playing up the part of ‘pricktease’ to perfection - a word Javier uses to describe her on his first meeting. Azucena’s introductory story of her triplet birth is especially inspired, especially upon final reflection.
Top acting honours though go to Carmelo Gómez as Felix, a great performance of a good man suffering from lack of sleep, a partner on the brink of suicide, the indignity of his wife leaving him – for a murder suspect, but still resolute to ‘doing the right thing.’ Reminiscent of Anthony LaPaglia’s role in Lantana (a similar film), Gómez grounds the film in our hearts, even when it does occasionally threaten to get silly.
A good score, well shot and intelligent, Between Your Legs should appeal to those who like a good brainteaser. Standout moments include Felix’s interrogation of Javier in his office (with Miranda hiding in the nearby toilet – a classic Hitchcock moment), and the near-final revelation of which I’d rather not reveal.
The ending may frustratingly drift off into ambiguity, what with dropped contact lens containers, delayed planes and random lottery tickets, but it may well be worth your time to take a good look Between Your Legs - you may well be surprised at what you see.
Nucleus Films DVD (click on the Amazon UK link above) includes a 19-minute making of feature, the original trailer, TV spots and stills.
1st Nov 04 Above all though, it is the relationship between John and Laura Baxter which is the film’s central focus throughout, and the gradual disintegration of their relationship amidst a haze of grief.