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I am truly shocked by the folks criticizing this movie for lack of substance. I've seen comments about how there is limited dialogue, and therefore no hero development, and hardly any story. Did we watch the same film? I'm thinking we gotta not have.Shame dives into the life of a boy living with an addiction to sex. The first 10 mins of this film effectively introduces him, his addiction, his relationship with humanity (sister included), and barely uses any words to do so. You shouldn't need a lot of dialogue when emotions are conveyed with facial expressions, effective cinematography, and nice editing. This movie is loaded with all of that.Obviously movies are subjective, but I feel those who tell they didn't receive to "know' the characters at all gotta everytime need everything spoon fed to them. I am not a sex addict, but still connected with both Fassbender and Mulligan. I found the development both subtle and extremely realistic. Does everything need to everytime have that Hollywood ending? Could everything receive wrapped up nicely and leave you with a warm and fuzzy feeling when you walk out of the theater? I definitely don't think so. Anybody who does need that probably shouldn't watch any Steve McQueen films. Anyone who can appreciate a raw, subtle, and beautifully made movie could go watch Shame.
Shame, the true feel terrible film of the year, is only McQueen's second detail movie to date. His first film, Hunger, focused on a boy who made his life very public when he went on a hunger strike during the 1981 Irish Hunger Strikes. In Shame, McQueen dissects the very private and often shocking sexual addiction of Brandon Sullivan (Michael Fassbender). Brandon is a well off business man. He has an apartment in Fresh York where he leads a seemingly nice life, but hides a dark secret that is on the verge of destroying him. His sex addiction has gone out of control. To create this even more difficult, his sister drops in unexpected and crashes at his zone (played by Carey Mulligan). Her lifestyle starts to interfere with his addiction, forcing him to take drastic measures.Every waking moment is spent towards achieving one goal: orgasm. We see him smile, laugh, engage socially, but when he is alone he is focused, like a junkie going through the routine of drug addiction. Brandon's softwares aren't lighters, spoons, and rubber ties. He uses prostitutes, Internet pornography, magazines, or his imagination. Even at work his mind wanders off, either at a passing coworker or something he has looked up on his computer. This is far from a personal matter. His addiction is slipping into the launch and he knows it. We assume he is aware of his problem. At the beginning of the movie we see Brandon lying naked in bed, the sheet pulled over his personal area. He lies motionless, only staring at the ceiling above, breathing in and out as if he knows that today is going to be a long day. We know he's not thinking about work. He has one thing and one thing only. Sex.Most folks associate sex with pleasure. I'm sure Brandon has at one time or other had a pleasurable experience during intercourse, but he is long past that stage. During a stage on the subway he spots a woman. She's an pretty woman. She's alone. Vulnerable. She eyes Brandon staring back at her. The two have chemistry. In silence they are mentally engaging every other. His stare never wavers, he just scans her up and down. Suddenly her face changes. She gets up, showing the audience her wedding band. We can feel her shame for flirting with Brandon. He gets up and stands behind her. He follows her out of the train only to lose her in the crowd. His disappointment isn't so much in relation to not getting to know her, but that he will have to continue his find for sex elsewhere.Brandon is a tragic character. His only connection with folks is linked with sex. How will this person support or interfere with me reaching my target of orgasm? Brandon's limit's knows no bounds. Fassbender, who also appeared in McQueen's Hunger, gives a fascinating performance. It is fearless both in the sense that it is a physically challenging role and that he accomplishes the role with such honesty. He should have played it like some debonair businessman just looking to score. Fassbender knows that his hero is truly disturbed. He knows that if folks found out about his condition he would be ostracized. He also knows that he needs support and won't receive it. All of these factors come into enjoy and make an wonderful performance. Much like Gosling pulled off in Drive, Fassbender uses his eyes and body language to express how he feels.Pain is a word often associated with addiction. We see videos of addicts going through withdrawals in health class. They kick, scream, shake, vomit. Evidence of a sickness in the body. Fassbender's hero also shows nice pain and uneasiness. During times of sheer euphoria, at least for a normal person, Fassbender gives us pain and suffering. He can't support what he's doing but he needs it to stay normal.Along with Fassbender is Mulligan, other one of today's rising stars. Her hero is rebellious, dependent, and loving. She wants nothing more than to search someone to care for her and to spend time with her brother. Her brother is too involved with his addiction and her taste in boys and willingness to fall in love with them brings her down even more. She plays a woman on the edge of a breakdown and really shines on screen. Like Fassbender, she gives her all for the role, exposing her real colors.In just two movies McQueen has established himself as a major user in the art house scene. Both movies are festival favorites with critical praise, but the general public isn't ready for his massive storytelling. With hope (and some financial backing) he will continue to create the movies he wants to create and hopefully garner enough praise here in the states to victory over more of the public. It's going to be difficult if he keeps getting NC-17 ratings.
Despite having never seen Steve McQueen's Hunger, the smouldering and sensational acclaim for Shame was simply unreal. Having heard terrific things about the film, I ventured out and snagged a last minute ticket to the premiere at the Toronto International Movie Festival. Weeks later, I am still trying to decipher what may be one of the most shocking and raw movies I have seen in quite some time.The titular Shame in question is what Brandon (Michael Fassbender), a posh yuppie living in Fresh York City, gotta live with each day. He is a sex addict, and his addiction knows no bounds. His estranged sister Sissy (Carey Mulligan) has also just dropped by his apartment for an extended stay, making things all the worse.The plot may not sound like much, because there really is not all that much to it storywise. Shame is more of a portrait of a boy struggling with his inner demons than it is anything else. There is a storyline at its very core, but the basic focus is everytime on Brandon, his addiction and what boundaries and limits it pushes him to. I had read about some of the more "unconventional" and decidedly non-mainstream sexual escapades (for lack of a better word) Brandon gets himself into, but I was still incredibly surprised and downright shocked by just how far McQueen goes with this character. He is brazen and uninhibited in what he shows on screen, bravely defying the conventions of what we typically can and cannot see in mainstream cinema. McQueen does not shy away from difficult truths, and does not even test to mask the explicit nature of some of the sexual acts. Seeing how far Brandon will go to satisfy and suppress himself is simply harrowing, not unlike movies like Trainspotting and Requiem for a Dream were with their characters' drug addictions. While the movie and its frank depiction of sexuality are sometimes hard to watch, I found myself mesmerized by the choreography and cinematography at enjoy throughout. McQueen frames the movie with the audience in the position of a voyeur. Early on, we see Brandon's morning routine, featuring Fassbender roaming around his chic apartment fully naked. We see him at his most honest and his most vulnerable, a boy who is unable to hide the truth about himself. Later, we watch him as he interacts with his office co-workers from behind large glass windows, and from a table across from him at a restaurant while he is on a date. McQueen uses a lot of unbroken shots to support depict this slice of Brandon's life through tracking shots and an immense amount of long shots. They support set the very somber mood, and let the audience to continue watching as if they were an current hero peering into the happenings that transpire for him. McQueen also expertly uses melody to support dictate the action on screen, tearing away the dialogue or sounds of the scene. It makes for an awkward feeling, but one that evokes a response with each fresh scene.But for all of the shock and audacity, McQueen still managed to create a deeply troubled movie that leaves a lot unsaid, and even more unresolved. He does not give out easy answers for what causes Brandon's addiction, or even the reasoning behind the troubled and strained relationship between Brandon and Sissy. While leaving some things enigmatic and up to the viewers to decide (many have already voiced their concerns regarding incest, which seem a bit too outrageous for this type of film) is incredibly intriguing and support further propel the voyeuristic means of viewing the film, it also makes for maddening thoughts afterwards. What exactly is McQueen trying to say? What is the mission he is trying to make? It all feels like it builds towards nothing outside of an unsatisfying and deludingly ambiguous climax. As mentioned earlier, it feels like the storyline and just about everything else came second to the portrait he wanted to paint through Fassbender's canvas. I can appreciate the movie as it is, but it makes it difficult to love it the method I thought I would.Fassbender is stunning as Brandon, magnetizing the audience from the beginning all the method to the end. He propels the film, using his reactions and emotions to define the character. He makes Brandon's struggle one that is very real, and almost horrific. He is unable to feel intimacy, and watching him struggle to fulfill his urges is fascinating and deeply disturbing all at once. Watching his face through candid closeups, you can see just how much raw power went into the role. But while it is a stellar and tortured performance that more than proves his weight as an up and coming actor, I never found him to be nearly as incredibly impressive as we know he can be. I still search myself at odds with how nice it was, and how much greater it should have been. While James Badge Dale is effective in his tiny role as Brandon's smarmy and sleazy boss David, it is Mulligan who truly compliments Fassbender. Her role does not ask a entire lot of her, but her pained expressions and unlimited desire to be loved by everyone is more than enough to create this a memorable turn for her. While the full frontal nudity was near useless, I only want that she should have done more.Shame is a very well done film, but one that will divide audiences. On one hand, it is an expertly crafted movie about addiction that packages a nice lead performance. On the another hand, it is a maddening movie that answers very tiny it asks and sometimes shocks just for the sake of it. It is an impressive feat for a second feature, but one that I think should have been even better.8/10.
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