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40 Days and 40 Nights

CAN A film buff survive without seeing a movie for a few days? Maybe! Or can a food lover last without chow for over two days? Difficult! And then can a young, virile, hot-blooded male last without sex for more than a week?

Definitely out of the question! Universal Pictures, Miramax Films, ``40 Days and 40 Nights," tells us just how! It is certainly not a sex film - but only goes to show how regular sex is part of the male psyche. The whole world revolves round that for the male as one of the `hot' babes in the films points out.

The humour is not so much in the comic situations, as in the repartees about `excessive sex.' And if this is something that offends your sensibilities, this is not the film for you. But on the other hand, if you don't mind the obvious stating of certain facts of life, well then you will go home smiling.

Matt (Josh Hartnett- Pearl Harbor) has just been dumped by his girlfriend Nicole (Vanessa Shaw). He tries to get her out of his mind by shacking up with a bevy of beauties, one after the other. The catch is that when relationships progress to the bedroom, he reaches an impasse - he starts to imagine that the ceiling is cracking and he is falling into a black hole. He believes this is so because he is unable to get over Nicole. And he thinks the only way he can recover his sanity is to free himself from desire. And it is Lent - the time for sacrifice and giving up what one loves most- and helped by his confessions to his brother, a priest (also someone grappling hard with his desires) he vows to give up sex for 40 days!

What follows is how poor Matt struggles to fulfil this vow in the face of myriad temptations.

Matt's idea may sound unrealistic in a free and easy world, but he thinks it's worth a try. But that's not how his colleagues and friends and his world of good-looking pleasure seeking singles, see it.

So sceptical are his pals that they indulge in betting whether or not he can pull it off. And the kitty grows in dollars and his crass roommate Ryan (Paulo Costanzo) even goes around with a special detector in his room to see that ``no fluids are released." But Matt holds out.

In this situation comes Erica (Shannyn Sossamon) a woman of great intelligence and warmth, who just cannot understand why Matt won't progress beyond a platonic relationship. But whens he finds out (over the Internet!) she is not quite sure what she should do.

It would seem here, that the notion of a young man discovering that sex can be meaningless without love, is threatening to those who think it is a competitive sport in which performance is everything and emotions do not matter.

Thus begins Matt's process of self-discovery with Nicole resurfacing in a manner that surprises him about why he liked her in the first place.

The director, Michael Lehmann, has decided to let others deal with the major issues in life, while he searches for clues about this subject through his protagonist Matt.

He also makes the dot com companies seem (though the bust up seems far removed from his visualisation) fun places with avant-garde décor, shapely, scantily clad women, and young kids who like to place their bets on the odds. Yet Rob Perez (screenplay) with his now snappy, now droll wit does make the 90-odd minutes of viewing, amusing.

CHITRA MAHESH

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