Why on earth would someone call a movie ”The Loss of Sexual Innocence?” It sounds like the title of a post-structuralist doctoral thesis, and, indeed, the film has an ambiance of academic chic. It’s one of those woozy Jungian art jobs, a series of elliptical, nearly wordless vignettes that are meant to strike a universal symbolist chord. Director Mike Figgis (”Leaving Las Vegas”) frames the movie with his baroquely contemporary documentary-like version of the Fall, complete with a biracial Adam and Eve (he’s black and sculpted, she’s white and willowy), full-frontal nudity and urination, and military police chasing the sinful couple from their Garden paradise. In between, the director traces the vaguely parallel story of a British film producer (Julian Sands) who is stymied during a weekend road trip with his cold-fish wife and young son. He then fulfills his sensual fate by voyaging into the Tunisian desert for a location-scouting expedition and falling into the arms of a ravishing colleague (Saffron Burrows) — a one-night stand with intimations of the apocalypse.
Figgis has often composed his own soundtracks (they tend to be variations on the same New Age jazz wallpaper), and ”The Loss of Sexual Innocence” is conceived as a piece of visual mood music, a languid calendar-art meditation on the innate violence of human desire. It’s original sin filtered through a millennial aesthete’s eyes, and the imagery, even at its quietest, has an ominous golden shimmer. You can feel Figgis bucking for the highbrow-cineast big time, dutifully aping Bertolucci, Roeg, ”The Double Life of Veronique”. He fills the film with overlapping portents: a crashed jeep, a pair of beautiful twins unknowingly brushing up against each other in an airport, an enigmatic tribe of vengeful blue-painted primitives. Does he cast a spell? To a degree, yet the movie is so obsessed with uncovering the subterranean destiny of sex that it omits something just as essential: the joy.