My boner for Clive Owen has been rock hard since 2002, when I first saw Croupier (1998)
In Croupier, Owen plays Jack, an aspiring author working a Casino job his father arranged for him. Jack is sharp and dry, and sort of ruthless and empty. I watch Croupier like I watch Donnie Darko, every few years, for a week straight on repeat. After one such Croupier Marathon I read through Owen’s IMDB and tracked down Close My Eyes (1991) Dear. God.
It opens slowly, but about ten minutes in you’ve got an idea what’s going on. This film is about incest. What you don’t know is how it’s going to play out – where these two siblings are going to end up.
Natalie is fucking her younger brother, Richard (Owen). I can’t decide if I want to call it a love story though, because I don’t know that I believe they were in love with each other. For a while there I kept hoping someone was going to reveal they weren’t actually related (like in Lovers of The Arctic Circle). That moment never comes.
As long as the story itself is presented clearly, only your response should confuse you. That’s the purpose of art: Your ideas have to be challenged, you’re forced to examine why you believe what you do. My confusion with Close My Eyes stems from my own indulgence for sexual taboos, my initial response toward Natalie which reflect my feelings toward myself as a woman. I identify with Natalie (minus the fucking my brother part). I recognize in myself that need to be coveted, desired, and enjoyed.
I don’t care why people fuck how they do, or like what they like. Your sexual activities are not my business. I do think sleeping with your younger brother, or going after young girls is desperate and predatory. But IRL I don’t think any of us has any authority to judge consenting adults for getting their rocks where they want. I also recognize the emotional dangers faced by anyone allowing themselves to be swept away by their desire.
From the beginning Natalie is a needy disaster: Her lover’s left her, she’s admittedly unhappy, she isn’t doing fulfilling work, and she’s dependent on her younger brother, Richard, for something that isn’t quite clear. She’s sort of pathetic, really. Those things Natalie wants for herself – adoration, love, and respect – are sought externally. And that’s simply no good.
Now I’m sure most women have, at some point, felt utterly unfulfilled by life, love, and work; lost somewhere along the path to perfection. This shit happens. And I’m not above Natalie in this way. Neither am I above occasionally wanting fulfillment in the form of someone else’s completely unconstrained lust for me.
Just one look, minimal proximity and you’re dunzo, set-a-fuckin-blaze. They unlock within you a new confidence, a passion to exist and thrive as the most idllyic version of yourself – an attractive, endlessly powerful Lifeforce. A new lover, through their fervor for you can satisfy your best perception of yourself.
Natalie puts the move on Richard first and when they finally act on it he becomes practically obsessed. Natalie does very poorly to remedy this. Even when she appears to try to end their affair, Natalie’s submission to the chaos she orchestrated seems ill-fought. Here, again I identify with Natalie. I know that feeling, the sweet and satisfying surrender to good sex, that is actually bad sex anywhere outside of its immediate urgency and fulfillment. Like drugs – you know you better not, you know it’s bad every way you spin it, but you need it and just the act of getting this bad thing in you can extrapolate the high.
As the situation progresses – to even allow the situation to progress, seemed emotionally irresponsible on Natalie’s part – Richard’s violent obsession with their affair unravels him. And I couldn’t help but feel that in her selfish neediness this was something Natalie had always wanted. Not necessarily that it be her brother, but that anyone could want her so madly. However, I don’t think she’d bargained on her not being able to control it.
Here sets in the discomfort. Who wouldn’t want a lover that simply could not do with out them? Maybe, stronger, more confident individuals. But an impossible, unquenchable lust has always been something I wanted in a love affair. If you can’t do without me and you absolutely can’t stand the thought of sharing me, then I’d know you meant it.
Ultimately though, isn’t that is a weakness? Anyone who needs to be needed that badly, to the point of playing games or having affairs, has really low self-esteem. But if anyone did want me so desperately, so furiously I’d have to admit I’m only human. I can’t say that I could respect them, or their feelings for me enough not to power trip and play with their heads even a little bit.
That’s the thing with a movie like Close My Eyes; it holds up the mirror. It shows you relatable and fractured characters. It shows you that humans are messed up and we don’t think clearly. And it reminds you that you don’t always do the right thing by people either. Stories like this force you to question whether or not you would.
But you probably would fuck with someone’s head if you could, if they let you, if they loved you so immensely that they would not do without you. What would stop you from turning a top that just begs to be spun?
I know people who’ve done it; wanting some nearly undeliverable absolute of emotion from someone else, they behaved in the most button-pushing way, unapologetically sending the other party’s feelings into a typhoon status.
Introspection aside, I really enjoyed how Close My Eyes was shot. It was very beautiful and soft. The story moves at a languid pace, which works to lend more tension to the love and fight scenes, and more suspense to the conclusion. I thought the love scenes were pretty impeccable, how hungry yet tender the characters were with one another.
I liked the contrast of nature and construction – which is an interesting lens through which to examine incest. I enjoyed how cold and pragmatic Richard’s boss was. And I loved the brain on Sinclair (as played by Alan Rickman).
But let’s be real. I loved Clive Owen’s dick.
I came for the dick. I stayed for the torment.