Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Shame

Shame
seen @ AMC Loews Lincoln Center 13, New York NY
12.20.11

I wish I could say that I was any kind of authority when it comes to sex. My sexual liaisons have been few (and no, you may not know about them). I remember my first time, of course. Without giving away details, let me just say that it was with someone I loved, and who loved me. And while the mechanics of it may not have been perfect, I'm glad we did it when we did it and I still cherish the memory. Not everyone is so fortunate when it comes to their first time.


I can see how sex can be addictive. Hell, it's a wonder more people aren't addicts. Under the right circumstances, it's the most beautiful, transcendent, and yes, even spiritual - a word I do not use lightly - act (at least) two people can engage in. Throughout history, people have fought, killed and died for it, or lack of it. Of course, often people confuse sex for love, but that's another post.


I have a wandering eye, like many guys. I see a pretty girl on the street, on the subway, in the supermarket, sex immediately comes to mind. I have a friend for whom it's practically an unconditioned reflex. Doesn't help that he always complains about not having a girlfriend. Sex, or a lack of it, does things to people.



I knew that the sex in Shame would not necessarily be sexy. At first it kinda was... but ultimately it reached a point where it was simply disturbing and even a little bit stomach-churning. Part of it was the context of the story, of course; part of it was also the way it was filmed. There's a three-way near the end that under other circumstances might definitely be hot, but because of everything that came before it, definitely wasn't. At the film's end I felt empty and sad and depressed. (And then I had to go into the lobby and hear the end of a goddamn Justin Bieber Christmas song and that made it worse!)


The more I think about Shame, though, I can't feel too much in the way of pity for Michael Fassbender's character. Brandon is - ain't afraid to say it - phenomenally attractive, must make a fair amount of money to afford the kind of apartment he has, and can get any kind of woman he wants, but we're supposed to sympathize with him because he gets no pleasure from the copious amount of sex he gets! Alright, granted, not enjoying sex is certainly a legitimate problem, but, well, let me put it this way: I can't help but wonder what kind of movie this would be if it starred, say, Steve Buscemi, and was directed by, say, Jim Jarmusch, instead of someone as artful as Steve McQueen.



(Brief aside: I saw McQueen's first movie, Hunger, when I was in Columbus. Believe it or not, it played there before it came to New York, which made me very happy to know. I thought the film was absolutely mesmerizing.)


An unspoken aspect of Shame is that Brandon's affluent lifestyle, combined with his amazing good looks, enables him to get the kind of chicks he wants. He's barely even at his job for much of the movie (it's unclear what exactly he does; he's some mid-level office peon). He even plays hooky at one point for a tryst with a co-worker. Can you imagine him being able to do this if he was a manager at the Gap? My point is that Brandon's sex addict story doesn't have as much drama as McQueen seems to think there is, at least not by itself...


... which is why I was grateful for the presence of Carey Mulligan's character Cissy, Brandon's sister. This is where I thought the real heart of the drama lay - the push and pull between Brandon and Cissy. I wish there was more of it. If there was, maybe this would've been just an R-rated movie and not an NC-17.


The intensity of Fassbender's performance, combined with the corporate world Brandon inhabits (and even the 80s music) reminded me a little bit of American Psycho. At times, I expected Brandon to pull a Bateman on one of the chicks he scores with.


I'm pretty sure that Shame is the first NC-17 film I've seen theatrically. I half expected to get carded at the box office. I actually stopped shaving prior to seeing the movie as a precautionary measure, not that it was necessary; I've always looked older than I am.

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