Saturday, 16 June 2012

Shame

Shame; erotic drama, UK/ USA, 2011; D: Steve McQueen, S: Michael Fassbender, Carey Mulligan, Nicole Beharie, James Badge Dale

New York. Brandon is a fairly successful employee in his 30s who is a sex addict, requiring sexual activity several times each day. He hires prostitutes and watches porn on Internet. When his sister, Sissy, a washed up singer, settles at his apartment because she does not have a place to stay, Brandon is annoyed. He goes out on a date with Marianne, but her emotional attachment bothers him. He starts pitying himself, but manages to appease the negligence of his sister when he saves her from suicide.

Critic Damir Radić finely observed how the cinema tackled several addictions, from alcohol ("The Lost Weekend"), through drugs ("Requiem for a Dream") up to gambling ("Owning Mahowny"), but surprisingly practically ignored the widely perceived sex addiction - with a few notable exceptions ("In the Realm of the Senses"). Director Steve McQueen teamed up again with actor Michael Fassbinder to deliver the latter in "Shame", a dark existential drama that is a quality achievement, but is unfortunately structured like a "dead end" - it shows the protagonist in a deadlock and just leaves him in a deadlock, without offering a solution or something to "outgrow" it. The protagonists' addiction is portrayed in a convincing way (his laptop is filled with porn sites; he even masturbates on toilet at work or goes to a gay bar just to have someone give him a blow job), yet it is interesting to point out that his problem actually lies more in being "allergic" to feelings and emotional attachment: the date with the clever Marianne (excellent Nicole Beharie) clearly shows this ("Look at all the couples. They don't even talk!" - "Maybe because they don't have to. They are connected.") and is further explored when he cannot get an erection with her because sex *and* emotions somehow cannot exist within him at the same time. The theme is corroborated by the cold relationship with his sister. Unfortunately, the Marianne subplot is quickly disposed, when it could have easily been the main plot since she is a more charismatic and better written character than Sissy. Another flaw is the increasingly sentimental finale, especially the syrupy-melodramatic music playing when Brandon is having a threesome: a subtler author wouldn't have allowed that and would have sent the message in a more objective way. Still, an interesting and gritty independent film that does not "polish" up the difficult (double) theme.

Grade;++

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