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Originally published Thursday, October 4, 2012 at 3:02 PM

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'Keep the Lights On': Actors shine in tale of love, drug addiction

A movie review of "Keep the Lights On," writer-director Ira Sachs' beautifully acted, autobiographical tale of a decadelong gay relationship between a documentary filmmaker (Thure Lindhardt) and a literary agent and crack addict (Zachary Booth).

Special to The Seattle Times

Movie review 3.5 stars

'Keep the Lights On,' with Zachary Booth, Thure Lindhardt. Directed by Ira Sachs, from a screenplay by Sachs and Mauricio Zacharias. 101 minutes. Not rated; for mature audiences (contains nudity, sex scenes, profanity). In English and Danish, with English subtitles. SIFF Cinema at the Uptown.

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Love and addiction: They frequently go together in the movies, but not always successfully. It's so easy for drunks and addicts to become big-screen bores. Among the exceptions: Jack Lemmon and Lee Remick as boozers who can't get enough of each other (or alcohol) in "Days of Wine and Roses," and Al Pacino and Kitty Winn as the twisted, tragic, only semi-committed heroin addicts of "Panic in Needle Park."

Add to this shortlist "Keep the Lights On," writer-director Ira Sachs' passionate, autobiographical tale of a decadelong affair between Erik, a Danish documentary filmmaker (played by Thure Lindhardt), and Paul, a Manhattan literary agent and crack addict (Zachary Booth).

After having phone sex (which later leads to a hilarious misunderstanding), Erik and Paul find themselves in a classic bind: Can't live with each other, can't live without. Beginning in 1998, they spend years trying to stabilize a relationship that's always on the edge.

An accomplished indie filmmaker ("Forty Shades of Blue"), Sachs creates a genuinely romantic bond between his actors that feels fresh and free of clichés. As a director, Sachs makes especially effective use of long tracking shots that emphasize Erik's loneliness in the New York crowd that surrounds him.

The love scenes are both fierce and intimate, always contributing to a tension that makes us wonder if these two can ever find a way to be together. Never, however, do we doubt that they're utterly besotted with each other.

John Hartl:

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