Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Shame - Steve McQueen (2011)


  1. Shame is a film about a man with an interesting and varied sex-life, starring Michael Fassbender, directed by Steve McQueen. 
  2. Seriously though, what red-blooded man doesn't have this much sex with strangers and prostitutes and webcam girls and female colleagues and porn and men all the time? What?
  3. If you're interested in Michael Fassbender's penis you'll love this. You don't even have to wait long, it's right there in your face in the first scene, waggling around a spare, soulless New York apartment. Apparently Steve McQueen insisted on Fassbender's being naked all the time on-set and, whenever he asked, 'what's my motivation here?' would simply point at the tip of his penis with a conductor's baton.
  4. This is the worst porno ever right? But, of course, this is a film about sex in a world where sex isn't fun any more. Fassbender's character, Brandon, is an addict. As is made abundantly clear, he uses sex compulsively because of a terror of intimacy. This not-very-subtle idea is stated in about 10 different ways. A female caller leaving an answerphone message for him over and over (it's almost like she can't get through to him), his inability to get stiff in the presence of woman who wants to know him (but it's fine with a prostitute later) and the 7-inch record of Chic's I Want Your Love, that's playing in his apartment when comes home (ironic!) and the fact he keeps asking his sister 'what do you want from me?' (she wants love, did you get that? Love).
  5. But there is a cruel irony at work here, where the addict's substance of choice ends up delivering the precise opposite of the thing it once promised. So the alcoholic who drank for conviviality ends up pissed and alone. And the sex addict who once fucked to feel loved finds himself unable to love. The look on Brandon's face during coitus is that of a mating dog, a creature compelled to do something, without having the first idea why it's doing it.
  6. It's pretty heavy stuff, so you can divert yourself by considering that Willem De Foe's penis was actually so large that Lars Von Trier had to use a body double for all the weird sex in Antichrist. And, according to model Janice Dickinson, Liam Neeson's cock is the size of an Evian bottle. So, those are the guys to beat.
  7. Brandon jogs listening to Bach's piano cantatas. Of course, these are variations on repeated theme, so, a clever touch in a film about repetitive compulsive behaviour, but who, really, listens to disco in their flat and classical music when they go jogging? If you had to think of a word for the film's symbolism it would probably be heavy-handed, which is two words.
  8. There are at least two meanings of the word shame. One is 'a feeling of humiliation brought on by the consciousness of wrongdoing'. The feeling we feel when our actions run counter to societal norms, according to Freud, a manifestation of the internalised society we each carry within us. Brandon, however, is living in a post-shame world. His boss discovering his browsing history is the worst possible thing that could happen - and yet there are no consequences, and he feels nothing. After all, how can the condemnation of authority mean anything when even that authority is literally shameless, cheating on his wife with Brandon's sister Sissy (Carey Mulligan)?
  9. Turns out the price of liberation from our own shame is the freedom to live out our desires, which are delusions of the kind that, ceaselessly pursued, will eat you alive. As Sissy says: 'We're not bad people, we just come from a bad place'. The other meaning of the word shame is 'a regrettable or unfortunate thing'.
  10. Carey Mulligan just looks so English and she has neither the face nor the voice to pull of a pretentious scatted version of New York, New York. The 10-Point Review literally fell asleep, twice, during the song, but that could just be that terrible post-coital exhaustion that usually kicks in after lunch don't you just hate that etc.?

16 comments:

  1. Carey Mulligan: surprisingly doughy.

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  2. Yeah, it seemed cruel to devote a whole point to that.

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  3. Blatantly was the 12" of I Want Your Love, not the 7" though wasn't it?Also Mulligan put on that when she was in the shower, not Fassy.

    Was quite refreshing to hear Classical Music 'blasting' out of Fassy's Ipod rather than generic Rock Music which I expected when he put them in.

    Mulligan's titties are horrendous, crap character. Fassy and the girl he dated = only likable characters in the film

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  4. Great review. Would post a comment as detailed and pedantic as the above, but I'm heading out to get my ass kicked and, with any luck, find a man to suck me off in the shadowy recesses of a cavernous techno club

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  5. Don't forget to have a threesome with two prostitutes just to round out the evening. I always do.

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  6. Shame is not about sex-addiction, though everyone thinks it is. And to be fair, it's not NOT about sex addiction, but the real subject of the film is incest and the destructive ways that our closest emotionally ties also come to define the destructive aspects of our personalities.

    The unspoken central fact of Shame is some horrible childhood trauma(s) shared by this peculiar brother and sister duo. To state it explicitly would be to rob it of its power; instead we simply watch its outward effects. Fassbender's obsessive libido is one long, pathetic avoidance tactic to displace the sexual feelings he has for his sister. When she re-appears in his life (naked no less, in the shower)it begins an even further downward spiral for the character who now finds himself unable to connect with other women on anything beyond a sexual level. The failed consummation with his kind and friendly date is the final manifestation of his emotional impotence. His heart is his sisters.

    United by their mutual past, their fates are tragically and unavoidably linked, a truth which Fassbender literally tries to run away from in the movie's long impressive tracking shot. Like the antiseptic bachelor pad kept by Patrick Bateman in American Psycho, Fassbender's apartment is cold, dis-personal and bereft of human feeling. Carey Mulligan's character, unable to not feel, has failed to discover a way to function with her pain the way her ostensibly successful brother has. When she croons through a lugubriously slow and awkward rendition of "New York, New York" the wounded soul beneath can't help but be exposed like a raw nerve, causing her brother to admit feeling and shed a tear. The mix of intense sexual desire, guilt, annoyance and regret he feels toward her cannot, ultimately, be reconciled in his mind. His sex addiction is the flailing of a damaged heart grasping for a simulation of intimacy. The cathartic break-down by the river allows for a glimmer of understanding if not hope; a suggestion that maybe being pushed to the precipice by his sister's suicide attempt he can at long last confront the "shame" that his feelings for her cause him.

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