IN HIS OWN WORDS | Michael Rowe Shares a Steamy Scene From “Leap Year”

IN HIS OWN WORDS | Michael Rowe Shares a Steamy Scene From "Leap Year"

Winner of the Camera d’Or at last year’s Cannes Film Festival, Michael Rowe’s feature debut, “Leap Year,” is boundary-pushing, sexually explicit film sure to get people talking. The film opens June 24th in New York at Cinema Village courtesy of Strand Releasing. Rowe shared a steamy scene from his drama with indieWIRE, along with his thoughts on the shoot. Find it all below.

What the Movie’s About

Laura lives and works alone in a tiny Mexico City apartment, which she leaves only in order to buy food or to pick up men for casual sex. However when she picks up Arturo things start to change, firstly because, unlike the others, he comes back, and secondly because he has a taste for violent sex.

The Selected Scene

The clip starts just after they have sex for the second time, and are in post-coital chit-chat. Arturo asks her if she’s lived in Mexico City for long, she says yes, which is at best an ambiguous statement. After a pause during which she reflects on the possibilities opened up by his comment, she begins to do something that we’ve seen she’s capable of before, albeit on a smaller scale: she lies. She tells him how happy her life is, how many friends she has in her building. He asks what she wants to know about him, and she replies, nothing. He asks what time it is and she points to the clock. He sits up, anguished, and says, “I have to go,!” She replies, resigned, “ah-ha.”

Behind the Scene

The scene was a tough one. I think the sequence shot originally lasted 17 minutes, although something like five minutes ended up on the cutting room floor. I wanted to contrast the absolutely crude, sex-based power relationships in the first part of the scene with the much more subtle and ambiguous relationships that arise after the orgasms. Once the sex is gone and leaves them alone in the room together, two virtual strangers, Laura lies on every level. She pretends to have enjoyed the rough sex, she pretends to have a happy, fulfilling social life, and she pretends to have an absolute lack of interest in the marital or emotional circumstances of her newfound lover. Margaret Atwood wrote, “Those who say they want nothing, want everything.” This is the world in which Laura lives.

Within the shot there are three different compositions, corresponding to the three different stages of the tiny drama that is unfolding. This is the final one, in which the characters face each other from opposite ends of the screen, contradicting the violent intimacy we have seen from them at the beginning of the sequence, when they are on top of each other in the very center of the composition.

Shooting Sex

All of the sex scenes were tricky on some level, even if it was only emotionally, and as a first-time director I was as nervous as hell on the strong material. I was always worried about the actors and for most of these scenes got everyone out of the room except the cinematographer, focus puller and boom man. But I was very fortunate to work with actors who were completely committed to the quality of their work, and who weren’t worrying about whether they were being taken from their best angle.

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