Hard to watch, but worth the persistence. - Simon Connolly
A few years ago I read Choke, a brilliant novel from Fight Club author Chuck Palahniuk. Smart, sharp and unhinged Choke was an excellent story of the dysfunctional life of a sex addict. And soon after the book was adapted into a film by actor Clark Gregg, who showed he is as unskilled behind the camera as he is in front of it. All the brilliance of the novel was lost as he created an absurdly unfaithful film. Now Shame doesn't have the same kind of comedic tendencies of Palahniuk's novel, but it is the astonishing insight into the experiences of a sex addict that Choke should've been,
The film follows Brandon, a sex addict whose already complicates life becomes even more so when his younger sister arrives at his doorstep looking for somewhere to stay. Her arrival disrupts his routine and he finds himself losing control of his twisted addictions and plummeting towards rock bottom. The second collaboration between upcoming director Steve McQueen and the phenomenal Michael Fassbender, watching Shame might be one of the most unsettling cinematic experiences you ever have, but it is worth the discomfort as under it all is a truly remarkable film.
First off I want to give you all a tip before watching this film; go see it alone. This is not a film you want to go see with friends or family. You know when you're watching a film with someone and the tone of the room becomes incredibly awkward when a sex scene comes along? Well Shame is about 140 minutes of something much worse than that.
Shame has more sex in it than any film I've ever seen, bar maybe Eyes Wide Shut, and not one moment of it is in any way exciting. In other words it's a highly sexual film that couldn't be less sexy. And regardless of how perverse and rough it becomes, McQueen never lets you escape. Shame isn't the story of a man who wants to have sex, or who even enjoys it for that matter. It's about a man who has to have sex, and it consumes his life, affecting his job, family and love life. At a time when people are calling sex addiction an invented disorder for celebrities to hold onto their endorsement deals, this film explores the realities of the addiction and the result is extremely hard-hitting.
So all in all Shame is a rather uncomfortable film to watch, but if you can handle it then you'll get to enjoy an incredible film. This is only McQueen's second feature film but you would think he's been doing it for years. Having already made a film about hunger strikes in Northern Ireland, he once again tackles a heavy theme and again creates a true masterpiece. There is a slight overuse of showy tracking shots, but overall he does a fine job. Meanwhile Michael Fassbender provides what is quite possibly his finest performance to date. It's a risky role but he gets it just right, capturing both the intensity and the desperation of his character perfectly while also attempting to keep things rather understated. How the Academy has managed to get away with not nominating him for an Oscar for this is a mystery to me.
Review published on the 13 February 2012 00:46
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