‘Shame’ – A Review

It perhaps says more about my day last Friday than the film itself, but when, after hours of attempting to draw a model in life class, I saw the opening sequence of Michael Fassbender walking round his minimalist NYC apartment with no clothes on, my overwhelming reaction was ‘oh, b$ll&cks, not another naked man.’

It was however a phenomenon I had to get used to, as there is a lot of naked flesh in Shame, Steve McQueen’s study of a man’s obsessive pursuit of sexual gratification which inevitably evaporates the moment the act is done.

Some critics have described it as a portrait of sex addiction, but that seems a bit too simple.  It’s more the constant search for something that will satiate an insistent appetite, but which, once achieved leaves the person feeling worse than ever, and escalating the desire for more and more; creating a cycle of constant disappointment.

I didn’t enjoy watching the film.  There were bits of it that made me want to scream with boredom, and of there had been a fast forward button I would have made liberal use of it, especially during an excruciatingly awful rendition of New York, New York by Carey Mulligan, and I heaved a sigh of relief when it was finally over, but, having said all of that, it did provoke a long discussion with the friend with whom I saw it.

I had no sympathy with any of the characters; E did.  I thought the lack of sympathetic response was part of the intention of the director, because there was no real insight given into their interior lives, it was all about appearance and surface to me, a distancing that made me ever aware of the artifice of it, that I was in a cinema, that this was acting, that it was all about looking and observing.  E agreed with only some of that.

I thought the line ‘we’re not bad people, we just come from a bad place’ was a sign that the director had been bullied into giving some superficial ‘explanation’ for the damaged siblings’ behaviour, and would have more respect for him if he’d resisted and left it out.  E disagreed, and appreciated the mood and comment the line encapsulated.

I became impatient with the slow languorous shots, which could have been several ‘art’ films, in which nothing happens, spliced together; on or two would have been fine, but so many was too much.  E liked the mesmerising nature of the continuous sequence of Fassbender running through night time New York; I spent all the time working out where he was running.

It’s definitely one about which to make up your own mind.

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