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Shame is an unusual British drama by director Steve McQueen which opened in limited release in the United States. Michael Fassbender plays Brandon Sullivan, a man with a simple and patterned life. He's addicted to pornography, and he spends his time having sex with an assortment of pretty women. His life begins to unravel, however, when his sister Sissy (Carey Mulligan) moves into his apartment. It is a simple story but it's a character study in the tradition of Fyodor Dostoevsky that tackles some disturbing issues. It was made like an independent film and it contains a good deal of nudity. Fassbender, a rising young star, is perfect in the leading role. Mulligan also acts the part, and scenes with the two of them are moving. With its aura of authenticity Shame is really serious filmmaking. It's a successful and memorable study of modern life that I'm sure took some courage to make. Shame is one of the best films I've seen this year, and I recommend seeing it.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This may be my second "movie of the year". Having lived for almost half
of my life in New York, a lot registered for me in this movie. It made
me miss New York and be happy I am no living there......all in the same
movie. I know of someone who has some of Brandon's, the lead character,
qualities. It perfectly captures the thrill of being successful in New
York. And sometimes the emptiness and vacancy you may feel once you
establish that success if you don't have a strong support system that
you can be honest with. His apartment is very much the starkness of a
bachelor in New York. When confronted with the possibility of a real
connection with a co-worker, possibly subordinate, his self assured
persona withers. He is unable to make that leap from anonymity to
Carey Mulligan's role is a little more tragic, but, painfully real. Once again, she reminds Brandon about the danger of isolation despite his protest of wanting to navigate through life, solo.
It is definitely a movie I will be purchasing on Blu-Ray.
Fassbender should have also been nominated for an Oscar. There was just no performance as memorable.
'Shame' is an exceptional film, the kind which doesn't come around too
often. More than a film, it's an education. Director Steve McQueen may
be modest about his intentions ('All a director can do is hope to start
a conversation'), but 'Shame' is, to my mind, a cinematic landmark. It
lifts the lid on sexual addiction and presents it every bit as
deleterious as any other addiction.
Snubbed by their native UK, McQueen and his screenwriter Abi Morgan (who wrote the less interesting 'The Iron Lady') went to New York, a place where creativity still means something, and were embraced.
A Turner prize-winning artist by trade, McQueen has taken to film like a wunderkind. His esteemed first film, released in 2008, was called 'Hunger'. Its topic caused controversy (it dramatises the IRA member Bobby Sands' 1981 hunger strike), but it established McQueen as a serious filmmaker. Now, with his lead from that film (Michael Fassbender), McQueen has created a sad, honest, brutal film of enormous power.
Fassbender, here and elsewhere an acting powerhouse, plays Brandon Sullivan, a thirty-something-year-old professional, working for a New York advertising company. Everything about him shouts success. His sleek apartment, designer clothes and mod-cons - he couldn't do any better. But Brandon keeps a shameful secret: he's a sex addict.
He organises his life around a routine of sex, sex and more sex. Work is no obstacle. When he gets the urge, he relieves himself in the staff toilet. At home, he accesses his Pandora's Box of porn to satisfy his craving: adult magazines, dirty DVDs, internet porn, on-line strip shows.
Brandon's boss (James Badge Dale) is more like his best buddy. He's also a sex addict, but because he does the whole drinks and dinner thing we accept him as a typical bloke. At work, both are vehement professionals; away from the office they're sexual predators, living only to chase girls.
Carey Mulligan plays Sissy, Brandon's estranged sister. Her depiction of a bruised young woman with a dark history ('We're not bad people, we just come from a bad place') is profound in its brilliance. There's a whole back story we never see or hear of but we know exists just by the way Brandon and Sissy react to one another. Something happened in their lives which has caused their relationship to be untenable.
McQueen has a fluid way of telling a story; 'Shame' doesn't pause for breath. Each scene is more alluring than the next. It is photographed in varying shades of icy blues and dull greys which, together with melancholy music, mirror the colour and sound of Brandon's psyche.
McQueen likes to linger on scenes he knows which will be remembered. Take the one where Sissy sings an unhurried rendition of 'New York, New York'. How many directors would have removed a verse or two? Or concluded it with a premature fade-away? Not McQueen. He allows Mulligan to sing the whole song. And why not? Her voice is terrific.
Or another scene, where Brandon dines with a girl he considers his next conquest. The writing of this arresting scene is superb so nuanced and yet completely realistic and revealing. It's also ominous because this one scene explains the point of 'Shame': Brandon could be any one of us, an outwardly ordinary person, harbouring a dirty little secret.
The sex is shocking only because it's natural-looking (I wonder if any of it was real?). It has no likeness to any of the sanitised sex we normally get. This film shows an addiction, not a fetish. It isn't ecstasy on Brandon's face, it's pain. In one scene, while midway through sex, Brandon stops and moves away, disgusted with himself. Why? Because it as that point he realises he doesn't want sex, he needs it.
The film takes a sinister turn after Brandon and Sissy have a particularly vicious argument. McQueen creatively merges three scenes to produce an effect that is at once profoundly disturbing and deeply sad.
McQueen is different because he says what he thinks. When asked what he said to his actors to make them do the things we see, McQueen was offended by the question. He replied along the lines of, 'I don't consider them to be doing anything extraordinary. Actors should have no boundaries. If they don't feel comfortable doing what I tell them to, then I don't want to work with them'. Now, there's a director I could get used to.
I watched the film more than several hours ago, but its still on my mind. I am enthralled in the whole experience of this film. I heard Steve McQueen say that the movie is about contact, connecting with such a issue as sexual addiction, being able to touch it and know that it is real, and my God he succeed! I felt that I could connect with all of the characters, and was able to deeply feel their emotions that reach out and grabbed my heart. The images was beautifully captured. I was a bit skeptical, because of the NC-17 rating, I was sure that there would be excessive nudity and sex, but to my surprise it was tastefully done. When revealing a world such as sex addiction there was no other way to go about capturing the true essence of this horrific disease. I will gladly pay $11 to see it again. Mr. McQueen I am amazed...thank you!
For guys who have always wanted to watch a porno movie with their
girlfriend, this must be the ideal movie. Explicit sex scenes are
cleverly disguised by a soundtrack with classical music.
Although the acting is really impressive, I think the commitment the actors have, especially the lead, is a little over the top. After seeing this movie, there isn't one part of his body you haven't seen (or one position you haven't seen him in, either).
I believe this movie is rated so highly because apparently critics confuse lots of explicit nakedness with "art". Granted, the actors are good. They manage to pull of very long shots expressing believable emotions. And this certainly paints an interesting picture of New York as a cold, impersonal city where everyone seems to have lost sight of what a relationship should entail. But that does not distract from the fact that there is no story being told and that huge parts of the movie you're just staring at the screen waiting for the scene to end.
But if you like to see a depressing movie about a sex addict, this is definitely your thing!
Brandon Sullivan (Michael Fassbender) has an addiction. He does not
struggle against it, seek therapy to cure it, or deny its existence; he
learns to cope with it and attempts to shape his life around it to
create routine and give it space. Brandon is addicted to sex but
appears to be a bit more OCD about it than the regular sex addict
looking to score at the club on a weekend. He has a handle on his issue
enough to know specifically what he wants. This specificity is most
likely his limiting factor when it comes to real life relationships and
intimacy, but Brandon's life seems mostly manageable with the
boundaries he sets for himself and the rigid schedule he follows.
This routine is shattered when a person whose phone messages he has been ignoring suddenly shows up in his apartment, his sister Sissy (Carey Mulligan). There is a hospital bracelet around her wrist but the audience does not know why. It appears Sissy has interrupted Brandon's life before but the audience is unaware of that as well. There is a lot the audience is not let in on. Shame is set strictly in the present. There are no flashbacks, no conversations discussing the past, and only vague references to any events ever occurring from a day earlier than yesterday.
Brandon has a job, goes to the office every day, seems successful, but we do not know what it is he does. His preferred M.O. is to get through the day, perhaps enjoy a drink after work, and then settle in front of his laptop for a night full of pornography to watch. Sometimes he ends up with a bar conquest engaging in sex underneath a bridge or pressed up against a window facing the world, but usually it is the laptop sequence at night.
Sissy throws a wrench into this entire schedule. Since she is around, Brandon's boundaries, self-imposed limitations, and routine are altered which in turn alters his judgment and decision making skills. Brandon has some self destructive tendencies which Sissy does not intentionally trigger, but she certainly does not dampen them either.
Unfortunately, the pacing and movement of Shame stutters throughout the film. Think of a pebble skipping across the water. When it strikes the water, something happens and the water ripples away from the impact. In Shame, this takes the form of a long conversation between Brandon and Sissy, his boss, or an awkward first date. However, when the pebble is airborne between water strikes, nothing happens. There are extended sequences and tracking shots following Brandon jog the streets of Manhattan, stare at a screen, stare out the window, or just walk around and ponder.
Shame is not expressly about Brandon's addiction, but more about his lifestyle, how Sissy affects it, and how he responds to his sister in her extended hour of need. The film suffers a bit from those segments between conversations scenes where the camera just follows Brandon around as he accomplishes inconsequential tasks. The only reason Shame has the buzz it does in the public sphere is because of its NC-17 rating.
There are numerous and explicit sex scenes, frequent shots of Fassbender in the altogether, and direct discussions of everything in between. It is refreshing to see a film which reflects reality as well as Shame does concerning sex, but just because this is a rare occurrence, does not make it automatically superior to an R-rated film which hides and sneaks around these matters. I do not recommend Shame precisely because it is quite dull in those long portions between dialogue; however, if you are looking for real situations which standard PG-13 and R-rate films gloss over, Shame is a fine way to experience it.
Shame is a masterpiece in its own right,but not for its daring
debauchery in showing staggering amounts full frontal male nudity or
even its depiction of sexual addiction(which was terrific by the
way),but it is a masterpiece for so much more.
While it is said that Shame is known for its depiction of sexual addiction,its Steven Mcqueen's gritty depiction of the lonely and isolated world of the thirty-something male,who lives alone, never settled down and battling inner-demons from his past, which is breath- taking and to put it simply ,sensational.
Brandon(Fassbender) is a yuppie,who looks stable to the outside world.He has a job,an apartment,lives in a big city,know how to talk to women and is quite...well.. handsome.However,inside his apartment,he lives a carefully cultivated private life,which involves and pivots on a world of sex, masturbation and pornography. Initially,this all seems like just an indulgence in sexual lust and his own licentiousness,but it when his Sister Sissy(played endearingly by Mulligan) arrives unexpectedly,that the audience for the first time truly gets a look at who Brandon really is and finds out that there is probably more to his practices than simply pleasure-seeking.
Sissy interrupts the world Brandon has carefully created and this is not good for Brandon.Not having the privacy to openly indulge in acts of sexual gratification,Brandon is forced out of his comfort Zone and is forced to tackle many of demons.In truth,it is sissy's arrival which makes the film happen.It is so,that we learn of Brandon's fear of intimacy,which is illustrated in his brief and complicated relationship with Marianne played by Nicole Beharie. At the same time,the audience is left to wonder the cause behind the strained relationship between him and Sissy.It is through the dialogue between the two,that we are given an insight into Brandon's mind. We learn of him not wanting to feel "trapped" by Sissy as well as of him "having no nobody".We also learn of Sissy's fear that if she leaves she will "never see him again." What is brilliant about this film is that Mcqueen reveals none of the sources behind Brandon's issues are what they truly are for that matter.The audience is left only to wonder and it is this which makes this film something special.
We see snapshots of drug abuse and for the first time see Brandon in an out right state of psychological breakdown after being beaten outside a bar.It is here that we see an unstable individual ,a conflicted individual, as he walks staggeringly, wounded and seemingly deranged through the streets of New York.However,nothing can compare to when he physical breaks into tears and weeps heart wrenchingly.
For the first time we realize the role of sex in his life and more importantly the role of addiction.It is what keeps him together. And it is Mcqueen's depiction of this, which makes Shame a masterpiece.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
When Carey Mulligan getting naked isn't the highpoint of your motion
picture, you've really accomplished something. When your movie includes
multiple full-frontal shots of Michael Fassbender's Magneto-dong and
that isn't the lasting image left in your mind, you've made something
pretty remarkable. And when you can fill up your film with long,
single-camera shots of actors neither saying nor doing a whole lot and
I'm not left squirming in my seat, you are an adept storyteller. The
subject matter and style of Shame isn't for just anyone but anything
this good will be enjoyed by a lot of people who wouldn't expect to.
Brandon (Michael Fassbender) is a good looking guy in the big city working an undefined job at and undefined company. What is starkly defined is Brandon's sex addiction. From porn to masturbation to prostitutes to banging complete strangers and a whole lot more, Brandon's entire existence seems to revolve around doing things to, for and with his penis. That includes his relationship with his estranged sister Sissy (Carey Mulligan) who forces her way into his life despite Brandon's every effort to ignore her. When he catches her naked in his shower and neither Brandon averts his eyes nor Sissy tries to cover herself, you know there's a damaged history with these two.
That's not what Shame is about, though. It's not about a lot in most conventional senses. In lieu of a plot, director/co-writer Steve McQueen slowly peels the apple of Brandon's sexual compulsions until he's revealed to be an addict no different than most. Whatever pleasure sex used to give Brandon, he now needs greater and greater sexual extremes simply not to feel bad. His addiction consumes more and more of his life while losing any power to distract Brandon from his crushing misery.
McQueen's filmmaking here is quite noteworthy. He doesn't tell us anything about Brandon. McQueen lets the audience discover it all for ourselves by showing us Brandon's actions, his inactions and the environment he's created for himself. Let me give you an example. After finding his sister nude in the shower, Sissy enters the kitchen the next morning to find Brandon making breakfast and her wearing nothing but a virtually see-thru t-shirt. When you watch them have "normal" brother-sister interactions with Sissy's nipple clearly visible, you realize the shower thing wasn't some bizarre event. A lack of sexual boundaries is fundamental to them and their relationship. Shame isn't shot like a stage play but with a largely static camera and very few, if any, cuts during its scenes, Shame is closer to a book than a movie in certain ways. It doesn't feel like McQueen is telling you a story. It's more like you're observing and deciphering things happening in front of you. His technique here is a reminder that fast edits and visual tricks can distance you from the emotional and intellectual heart of a film.
Fassbender and Mulligan are great, with Mulligan perhaps shining a bit brighter because Sissy is able to express her needs more openly. James Badge Dale does a fine job as well as Brandon's boss, someone who's ineptness as a pickup artist and capacity to live a fully functional life is a wonderful contrast to Brandon's stunted manhood.
Shame is very good. You might start watching it for the sex. You'll keep watching for the humanity.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I'm not quite sure how Steve McQueen does what he does. The obvious subject matter could have faltered in less capable hands, yet he weaves scene after scene of irresistible viewing pleasure. He makes the tiniest details the most interesting thing to watch. Case in point; social meeting between Brandon and Marianne is easily my favorite scene. The uncomfortable silences and delicious pauses in the conversations during dinner. Every intricate moment at the table exactly captures the mood of awkwardness - even with the ever-present waiter lol (how often does THAT happen?). I completely enjoyed watching two people flirting and conversing about anything and everything and much of nothing at all, steadily moving towards a knowing destination. It was something familiar, very common, and thoroughly entertaining. I am a fan of single-shot scenes when done effectively. This is great film-making :)
Steve McQueen's second film is just as hard-edged and brutally honest
as his outstanding debut Hunger and his phenomenal follow-up 12 Years a
Slave, but in an entirely different way. In Shame, the British auteur
explores a topic hardly ever discussed in the film industry, sexual
addiction, and uses it as a means to create a brilliant character study
with artistic visuals.
Michael Fassbender, understandably a regular cast member of McQueen, bares it all in this NC-17-rated 2011 release both physically and emotionally and delivers a performance meriting an Oscar nomination. Whether it's his violent expressions during sexual congress, the devastating void in his face when he's contemplating his life in seemingly interminable takes, or his apathy in everything else that happens around him, the German-Irish actor is amazing to watch and plays a pivotal part in Shame's quality. In McQueen's trademark style, the script merely lays the plot-wise basis for the end result and could either make for a masterpiece or a piece of rubbish. The realisation of the written words decides and, thankfully, the writer/director and his crew proceed to fulfil sublime work.
The cinematography is mostly held in a gritty, urban vibe and impresses with the aforementioned shots of incredible length, such as Fassbender's two-minute run through New York City, but also has temporary flashes of warm colours, very often in exactly those scenes you'd least expect them to be in. Another pro for Shame is its unique score, showing both classical and electronic traits and adding to the general melancholia clouding the film.
With very few things actually happening, Shame surely feels the longest of all of Steve McQueen's films and, just as with Hunger and 12 Years a Slave, it's probably going to take me quite some time to watch it again. However, the film brings up a lot of interesting things to think about and is the most honest and dignified approach to the subject I could think of, thus making it something very worthy of checking out.
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