Written by: FFT Webmaster | December 5th, 2011
OUT OF 4
British painter and visual installation artist, Steve McQueen directs and writes (with Abi Morgan) his sophomore feature with enough existential angst to satisfy Albert Camus. The movie tells the story of Brandon (Michael Fassbender) living in New York and pursuing non-romantic sex with any “hot” woman he deems worthy of his accomplished swordsmanship. This is 21st century SEX with technological tools like cell phones, video sex chats and computers(hard drives overflowing in filthy imagery) aiding and abetting the call for orgasms at all costs. Brandon is to put it bluntly a sex addict. Handsome, hard-bodied and focused, Michael Fassbender is pitch perfect in the role and has assimilated Brandon’s obsessive-compulsive behavior unto himself.
The film which is rated NC-17 for explicitness uses Manhattan as a character by displaying dramatic views of the city with compositional care. While short on plot and long on episodic elegance, the film lingers in a realist sense on its subject’s whims and fancies. Brandon stares and flirts with women in bars, at work, in his high tech office job and on the subway. Brandon’s secluded and introspective personality is challenged by his sister Sissy (a brilliant Carey Mulligan) a part-time chanteuse (she sings a most idiosyncratic version of “New York, New York”) and bipolar personality who needs help to survive and crashes at his apartment. Sissy is Brandon’s reality check as her tortured existence makes him compromise his hedonism even when jerking off in the shower.
“Shame” has scenes which grab you by the throat and make you take notice. Brandon’s business-like encounter with a call girl at his apartment is cold and soulless as she counts the money before undressing herself. In another sequence, he talks dirty to a woman in a bar telling her how good he is at cunnilingus and gets pummeled in an alley by her pissed off boyfriend. He stops by a gay night club for some homo-erotic encounters before pursuing a ménage a trios’ with DeeDee Luxe and Calamity Chang.
“Shame” is a tour de force in the voyeuristic tracking of lost souls. It has been a hit on the Film Festival Circuit, and, rightly so for its superb acting and its potrayal of this existential milieu.