orgastic futures

Shame (2011)

Here a a few things you might have heard about Shame:

  1. It’s rated NC-17
  2. There’s a big dick in it
  3. See #2, repeat for #3 – forever

Unfortunately, this fantastic film about addition and abuse has been belittled to these two aspects of the film. The actual narrative of the movie follows the life of Brandon (Michael Fassbender), a reasonably well off businessman who has a sexual addiction. He has a very routine life, following it to a tee every day and night, until his sister Sissy (Carey Mulligan) comes back into his life and complicates things.

I’ve been heralding this movie since the initial trailer came out. I had no background on the film other than Steve McQueen was directing and Michael Fassbender was going to be in it. I told everyone about it but they didn’t care.  Only when news came out about it’s rating and sexual content did anyone ask me about the film. Yes, it is rated NC-17 and it is mostly because of some sex scenes and Carey Mulligan and Michael Fassbender going full frontal. I hated that it took nudity to get attention for this film, but this over sensationalizing of the film helped get people in the theaters to go see it.  However, I don’t think that many of them actually watched the movie with the awareness they should have.

Brandon (Michael Fassbender) watching his Sissy sing “New York, New York”

A few people went into the movie to see Fassbender nude and came out seeing Fassbender nude. They didn’t get anything more out of it. One clear instance of this is what my sister Kayla’s friend thought of the film. She saw the movie and only ever mentions Fassbender’s nudity, nothing more. When my sister informed her that a family member (me) had seen it, her friend assumed I was a woman. Y’know, because the only reason to see this movie is because there’s a dick in it. When Kayla revealed that it was her brother that saw the movie, her friend assumed I must gay, because no straight guy would see this movie. It’s irritating that a well crafted film is stripped down to only the instances of nudity, instead of the commentary about and around them.

Brandon (Fassbender) in bed

McQueen’s style is lingering, which many people simply do not have the patience for. He pretty much subscribes to a new trend I’ve been seeing in a bunch of media, that emptiness is as fascinating as fullness. He stays on single shot for a long time, absorbing every possible nuance into the frame. Do we really need to see Brandon laying in bed for a full minute at the beginning of the film? Or listen to the entirety of a very slow rendition of “New York, New York”, while focusing only on the two leads’ faces? I would say that McQueen and his actors put in more content in scenes like this than some directors do in entire films. The bed scene not only introduces us to Brandon, but lets us see his contemplation on his own life, his stagnation as a person, his loneliness, his near ambivalence to life itself. If you think I’m reading too much into it, i can assure you that I’m not even scratching the surface.

Brandon (Fassbender) and Sissy (Carey Mulligan)

Fassbender is a chameleon. I honestly do not recognize him from one film to the next. After watching Ingourious Basterds, it took me about half way through Fish Tank (another amazing film) to realize, “Hey, that’s Fassbender”. He is amazing in this film. Brandon is an Irish immigrant, so Fassbender (also Irish) puts on a slight American accent that occasionally breaks back into an Irish accent. It’s so subtle, it can go unnoticed. Mulligan also brings her best to the film. The long singing scene captures Sissy’s every facial mannerism, creating a character that is so flawed and troubled that you can’t help but second guess her intentions.

Sissy (Carey Mulligan) singing “New York, New York”

The scenes with both the leads are fantastic. The tension between them is so thick and somewhat unknown, making their relationship as brother and sister very uncomfortable. There is a harsh and sad truth behind their interactions, which is never explicitly stated (although I think there is enough evidence in the film to make a fairly serious claim). In a very uncomfortable scene, Mulligan goes from toying with Fassbender to being in complete and utter fear of him. The transition is so organic that it feels real, putting the audience right in the middle of room.

Brandon (Fassbender) and Sissy (Carey Mulligan)

This was one of the best movies from last year, which is saying a lot considering how good a year it was for film. Shame is available now, please get your hands on it.

This entry was published on April 18, 2012 at 3:13 pm. It’s filed under film and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

19 thoughts on “Shame (2011)

  1. I agree with your point about Fassbender blending into his films. It took me longer than I’d like to admit to realize that “that British guy from Inglorious Basterds” was Magneto in First Class. I was curious about this film when it was announced because of Fassbender’s involvement, but the hype seemed to disappear, and I never got around to seeing it. Maybe I will now.

    • I can’t express how good of an actor he is. Last year was practically the year of Fassbender. He had four movies out (Jane Eyre, First Class, A Dangerous Method, Shame) and he was amazing in each one.

  2. See the reason for my wanting to see this movie was Michael Fassbender. I heard he was in it and was like “yes please!”. However, the limited movie times conflicted with my schedule and I didn’t get a chance to see it. I heard it was “disturbing” and “brilliant” from more a couple of friends and a couple of movie critics. This post makes me even more excited to see it. Alsooo I had no idea he was in Inglorious Basterds! Albeit, I wasn’t really aware of his existence until First Class and I thought he was fucking terrific as Magneto.

  3. I’d definitely see this. Your description of that long scene on the bed got me. I’m taking a film class and we’re seeing older films. The one thing I love about them is the scenes are long. Sometimes, there won’t be a cut for minutes but that’s what is amazing. It draws you in, then bam! 3 minutes later your somehow a little more enlightened than you were 3 minutes ago.

    Also, I think the whole nudity thing is unnecessary in any kind of movie unless it has a significant meaning or purpose. If I wanted to see a penis, I’d watch porn. And that stuff is free. I don’t go seeing movies for THAT kind of instant gratification.

  4. Perhaps I’ve overlooked this Fassbender character. Some of my favorite characer actors/on-screen chameleons are:
    Peter Sellers, Alec Guiness, Max Von Sydow, Gary Oldman and a rising Ryan Gosling (say what you want) So thanks for the tip, can’t wait to check it out. seems like it’s been a slow year or so for really good movies.

  5. rigo3321 on said:

    Have you ever seen “El Espíritu de la Colmena”? it was directed by Víctor Erice. Its a very famous spanish film. I only ask cause there is a very long shot of a solitary house in the middle of a huge field. But then again, Erice had to put a lot of imagery in his film in order to criticize Francisco Franco without the fear of being censored or killed. This came out when i was in spain so i just heard about it when i came back. but im sure ill rent it. but i think that you should give break to the people that go see it because of the penis. I mean, come on, its HUGE.

  6. Ha! I can’t wait to see it. I think I have to purchase it. Though I don’t want to do that, my local Red Box doesn’t have it. I am so sad. I like Ryan Gosling, but with some hesitation.
    He’s borderline for me because he’s an actor that could go all Hollywood on your ass. I enjoy slow burn actors like Fassbender and McAvoy–they’ll have long careers as long as they stay just below the radar.

    • Redbox will not carry NC 17 movies, so no Shame. I actually got carded when buying the movie at Best Buy (I couldn’t wait for amazon to ship it), which has never happened to me before.

      McAvoy is another really good actor, but he stays too far under the radar.

  7. Alright, I get that Gosling’s reputation may turn people off, but his track record is just as good as Fassbender. Post 2006, both their careers are about the same in terms of Hollywood and small films. Fassbender has been in a Joel Schumacher film. Joel. Schumacher. The man who thought adding nipples to Batman’s suit was a good idea. And he was in Jonah Hex of all things.

    I don’t mean to put Fassbender down right now (I did say 2011 was the year of Fassbender), I just get defensive about Gosling. Don’t fuck with Gos.

    See, I got weird.

  8. Not as weird as I thought you would get, but yea that was kinda weird.

  9. michaela on said:

    I’ve been wanting to see this, admittedly because I’m a Fassbender fan, but your review is extra motivating. Also, Fish Tank has been in my Netflix queue forever, I’m going to give that one a go asap as well. Thanks. 🙂

  10. Thank you for this excellent article. ‘Shame’ was the best film I saw in 2012. I talk about the film’s amazing soundtrack, and in particular Chic’s ‘I Want Your Love’, here:
    I have read up quite a bit on ‘Shame’, and this is one of the best articles I have read about it. I really enjoyed reading your blog – you clearly got the film, which I don’t think everybody did. Your use of detail from the film was great too. Nice work!

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