Shame (2011) Directed by Steve McQueen

I watched the whole Oscar show some weeks ago when I had to sit in bed for a whole day because our child had his first stomach bug. While it was awful to have the little one so sick, I thoroughly loved the Oscars – so much it was a surprise. What I realized is that I am a movie buff, not just a buff's wife. I understood all the jokes and references to film history, I cried when the winners did...and Steve McQueen's nervous victory speech was the most touching of all. It was so real and yet it happened in the la-la-land of cinema. Real and unreal mix all the time, don't they? Especially because it is impossible to say which is which (I'm getting philosophical here). Movies truly embody this confusion. I'm in love...

And I should be talking about Shame, which is one of the reasons I mentioned Steve McQueen. It's one of those films where there's much to say and yet I feel a little uncomfortable saying anything. Michael Fassbender plays a sex addict. The film concentrates on portraying his actions, revealing little of his backstory or his emotions. I cannot stop analyzing and guessing the possible routes that led him to where he is. Incapable of emotional attachments, never satisfied, hunting like an animal. I'm throwing in my guess: abuse and/or loss as a child. My theory is somewhat backed by Carey Mulligan's character, but the film never explains and that's a good thing.

Shame brings up my own issues, borders and hang-ups about sexuality. Why do I have to label sexual needs and demand that sex and human relationships somehow co-exist? Why do I not feel very compassionate towards the white male in the center of this tale? He's not a rapist or an abuser. He's not great with his sister, but we don't really see anything that bad about him. We just follow him on his path of lust. A lust without much happiness, I think. And then there's the name of the movie, the key to this film. Someone somewhere will probably have something more deep to say about that whole feeling.
I'll just mention that Carey Mulligan was great in Shame, although the scene where she sings is very painful and possibly not on purpose. I felt shame there.

Michael Fassbender's cock. There is no way getting around this, but if you've watched Shame, then you'll know what I mean. The Fassbender cock dominates the opening scenes. Wanking comes a close second. Whilst watching Shame, Astrid casually pointed out an apparently true stat: 50% of people masturbate in their work place. Wow! If you consider this for a moment (and if it's actually remotely true), capitalism would be all the more prevalent if people spent less time jerking off in high end office jobs.

Fassbender in Shame
Brandon (Fassbender), is an addicted-to-sex-advertising-executive who takes any opportunity to rent women, pick up women or fantasize about women. His life revolves around letting one rip in the office bathroom, making eye contact on the metro or effortlessly attracting women in nightclubs. Brandon seems an isolated figure till his eccentric and dysfunctional sister Sissy (a surprisingly good Carey Mulligan) crashes his apartment for an unwelcome stay. If Brandon has problems, Sissy is truly lost (no more so than an embarrassing cover version of New York New York). Brandon, so self involved and angry at his sister's intrudence, goes on a sex induced bender, ignoring his sister's danger signs.

Carey Mulligan in Shame
Shame is much subtler than I'm describing. This is cinema that leaves the viewer on their own to draw conclusions or find their own moral compass. Shame is better for this (it often feels like everyone has to explain everything nowadays). Performances are exemplary. McQueen manages to capture the loneliness and boredom of big city life (something we rarely see, especially of New York). Fassbender and Mulligan go beyond the call of duty. No simple solutions here, just great cinema.


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