Thursday, March 19, 2015

Before I Die # 543: Shame (2011)

The is the 543rd movie I've watched of the 1,162 films on the "Before You Die" list that I'm gradually working through.

Director: Steve McQueen

If you ever wished to see Michael Fassbender in a porn movie, this is as close as you're ever going to get. If you balk at that statement, rest assured that the movie is a very good one, though highly disturbing.

Fassbender plays Brandon, a handsome and successful Manhattanite who lives alone and regularly indulges his severe addiction to sex and pornography. Whether through one-night stands, hiring prostitutes, engaging in online porn, or arousing himself with sexual magazines and his own fantasies, Brandon can never get enough casual and superficial sexual gratification.

Brandon's sordid patterns of fixation are thrown off when his sister, Sissy, shows up unexpectedly to stay with him for an indefinite period of time. The siblings' relationship with one another is strained at best, and it is made worse when each starts to encroach on the other's destructive behaviors. Sissy, though a very talented musician, is a highly emotional, possibly bi-polar, drifter who tries to connect with her detached brother in various ways. The implication is that the two had an extremely difficult upbringing, which suggests why they are unable to accept and deal with each other in constructive ways. The results are tragic on a highly personal level.

This movie represents a different, arguably much better, take on human sexuality in modern metropolitan society than Stanley Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut. The latter is a far more intellectual and mature but overly cold analysis of sex. Shame looks at the subject through a single, damaged man and his chronic struggles with this most basic of human impulses. Shame is also much more explicit and raw in its depictions of sex than Kubrick's earlier film. Potential viewers ought to be aware, so they aren't completely shocked by its graphic nature. The graphic nature, though, brings home the very point that the film is making.

File this one under "excellent movies that only need to be seen one time." With the ever-increasing commodification of human sexuality in the information age, the many themes in Shame are well worth pondering, even when they lead us to very uncomfortable places.

That's 543 films down. Only 619 more to see before I can die...