Australian novelist and first-time auteur Julia Leigh’s Sleeping Beauty is a haunting portrait of Lucy, a young university student drawn into a mysterious hidden world of unspoken desires. The film's debut at the Cannes Film Festival left the critics divided
Australian novelist-turned-filmmaker Julia Leigh's "Sleeping Beauty" -- which plays like a mixture of not-that-softcore porn, Lacanian psychoanalysis and feminist conceptual art -- stands out among the strangeness of this year's Cannes lineup for being really, really strange. Whether it's good-strange or bad-strange is a highly subjective question; I found it gorgeous, opaque and disturbing in roughly equal portions, but it was a riveting experience all the way through. [Andrew Oherir, Salon.com] [Full Review]
“You will go to sleep; you will wake up. It will be as if those hours never existed.” That quote from the Australian feature Sleeping Beauty is part of the job description of an emotionally detached young woman who drifts into high-end prostitution involving no actual sex. Regrettably, it could also describe the experience of watching the movie.
There’s almost a somnambulistic quality to Browning’s performance that makes you curious to know how Lucy became so anesthetized. But Leigh’s cryptic clues are stubbornly and self-consciously elusive, leaving the character’s potential complexity untapped. Visually, too, the film remains uninvolving, its glacial pacing further slowed by exceedingly sparing camera movement, resulting in a look that's neither sensual nor unsettling.[David Rooney, Hollywood Repoter] [Full Review]
It is technically elegant, with vehemence and control, though often preposterous, with the imagined classiness of high-end prostitution and art-porn cliches of secret sexiness in grand chateaux: shades of Eyes Wide Shut.
Author-turned-director Julia Leigh has certainly made an assured debut, which evidently owes nothing to Jane Campion who has "presented" this movie in some kind of Executive Mentor capacity. Instead, Leigh aims for the occult ritual of Buñuel and the formal exactitude of Haneke: rigorously framed and composed shots. [Peter Bradshaw, Guardian CO. U.K.] [Full Review]
More tiresome than anything, Australian novelist Julia Leigh's debut feature, "Sleeping Beauty," concerns a self-abasing college student who doesn't distinguish among her various dead-end jobs, one of which involves being drugged into a near-coma and manhandled by strangers. Leigh's arty (not to be confused with artistic) treatment of such provocative subject matter derives from her own 2008 Black List-blessed screenplay, though the film's frustratingly elliptical style and lack of character insight give it a distinctly first-draft feel. [Peter Debruge, Variety] [Full Review]
Richard Porton is one of the editors of Cineaste magazine in New York and has written on film for Cinema Scope, In These Times, and Moving Image Source. His anthology, On Film Festivals (Wallflower Press), was published in 2009.