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Tuesday, May 1, 2012

"Shame", sex, guilt and aesthetics

Again, that feeling I had with "Drive" of being in front of a style exercise and not a real movie, with a huge hole in what regards to storytelling, so big that the conjunction of a very interesting subject together with a great actor can't save "Shame" from being a "fashionable", modern-looking but really cold and several times, tedious film.

Sexual addiction is still a topic that must be addressed with care in American cinema (look at the different movie posters, for example), but director Steve McQueen is not really interested in showing us what's being a sexual addict, but to portray us the unfeeling, numb existence of Brandon, a young man that reveals himself a person struggling with guilt and shame. What an absorbing premise this was.

McQueen depiction of Brandon's life is framed. In a sort of a voyeuristic position, we view a series of shots of his daily routine, awakenings, work, going out, dating, sex... The mood wants (too hard sometimes in my opinion) to remain politely neutral (aseptic) while also sombre (so not that neutral after all?) as our "hero" quickly reveals as someone with a problem that is consuming him.... Oh wait, is he?

Well, it depends on what you, viewer, decide, because Brandon's guilt is not shown way until the last part of the film. Before that, he goes out daily, has frequent sex (sometimes paid) with no aim of having a serious relation, and he consumes a lot of porn. Is that so shockingly unusual? Really? Anyway, let's agree on that's the director's choice, of course, but in terms of plot development, it all goes back to the spectator. If you enjoy watching daily work-offices, NYC flats designed by a magazine, high-class clubs and long shots of the Big City "Shame" might be for you. But if you care for a good, engaging story, the film could easily turn into a tedious one.

Can we at least trust in the actors? Michael Fassbender proves again he is up for any challenge... and I could say he would have done a mesmerizing job, but even his magnetic presence and his ability of being "in the scene" with so little, is capable of saving the flow of the film. He is also trapped into a sequence of scenes with an unfocused path. But Carey Mulligan, who plays Brandon's sister role, is even much more abandoned by director McQueen. She arrives to Brandon's flat, invading his much needed intimacy due to his addiction,  then she is not used to explore that path, then she annoys his brother (no spoiling) then that path is forgotten until the a climax scene between the two near the end, then her final action on the film action reveals that our "monstrous", superficial Brandon can actually care for someone, but then... oh well... Plus, Carey is the absolute star of the most annoying, completely pointless (the way it has been filmed) scene of "Shame". Yes, the singing one.

Having said all the aforementioned, "Shame" seemed to move towards a moody, anti-climatic end, but there's a dramatic change in their final part. A downward spiral of events, violent and desperate, follow very quickly, revealing the nature of his addiction, and finally, guilt and affections. In my opinion, it took too long to the film in showing that abyss of desolation, harming its credibility. Same goes for the somewhat predictable final scene, that leaves "Shame" open-ended, waiting for your interpretation. Leaving the judgements on the shoulders of spectators is usually the bravest and most rewarding option, but sometimes is just a resource in order to justify the plot holes. A trick that can make the film work. But for me at least, it didn't.      

SCORE: 4,5/10

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