Saturday, December 17, 2011

Shame is an Addicting Tale

Shame (4 out of 5 stars)
Directed by Steve McQueen
Written by Abi Morgan and Steve McQueen
Starring Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan

Shame received an honor few films get today, the film was rated NC-17.  Some will define this film by this rating.  In a way this makes sense, the films centers around an addiction to sex.  The film was rated NC-17 because of the amount of nudity and the representation of sex.  I think Shame could change the face of the NC-17 rating.  Most NC-17 films get the black ball, meanwhile Shame has a nice release progression.  I live in Boston and assumed that only the small independent theaters would house this film, and that the release would be staggered, not the case.  Shame is being played by a major theater company, the AMC Loews chain.  AMC has a branch called AMC independent which makes a commitment to bring independent films the mainstream public. Even with such graphic scenes I am proud of this major company for taking a risk on this film.

Shame opens on a crowded New York City subway and Brandon Sullivan (Michael Fassbender) starts to smiling at an unknown woman on the subway.  The film builds up this potential sexual tension glancing back and forth between the two participants.  The shot focuses on the woman's wedding rings as she gets up to leave and the train, and Brandon getting up to follow her.  Sounds romantic.  This moment is not about romance, nor is any aspect of this film.  Shame focuses on the the dark world of sexual addiction and effect it has on every aspects of a persons life ranging from work to family.  Brandon's sister, Sissy (Carey Mulligan) comes to stay with him because she gets a job in New York, and this interrupts the flow of his daily sexual routine.

This film experience is primal.  McQueen's direction is precise and direct in its focus.  McQueen has moments where he loses grip on his own tale, but as the film drawers to a close it brings the story a realistic place.  Joe Walker's editing is spectacular, and constructs Brandon's sexual encounters spectacularly.  The circular motion of the opening sequence with Brandon's daily routine displays the focus of the film well.  Harry Escott composed the score for this film and the music builds an incredible climatic experience.  Escott leaves the audience feeling the raw emotional weight.

These three aspects would be nothing without Fassbender's performance.  Michael Fassbender has given four phenomenal performances this year, but this is his best.  Fassbender does a brilliant job using his facial expressions to convey both the bliss and agony of his sexual addiction.  Brandon has many moments that make him unlikeable, but as he interacts with a secretary at work (whom he seems to like) there is a moment where you get lost in the depth of this character.  This is one of my favorite performances of the year.  Mulligan is strong in the film as well playing Sissy who has never got her life together on the outside or inside; she is emotionally wrought.  While Brandon puts on a brave face to those around him, Sissy let's her personal baggage own her.  Mulligan's performance shows strength.  These two play off each other well and make each other give a better performance.

This film's realistic nature helps construct something very dark.  The film is a journey into the pain, agony, and pleasure of sexual addiction.  Shame take the concept of erotic intimacy and does what other films don't dare to do.  The film opens up wounds and strips the characters bare, and exposes all of their flaws.  Wonderful film.

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