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9 Songs September 25, 2008

Posted by Victoria Fredericks in Movies.
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In Michael Winterbottoms 2004 “9 Songs,” two lovers meet by chance at a concert in London: A glaciologist, Matt, and a drifter girl from America, Lisa. Their story is an explicit one, told in between live concert footage (hence the title). We get an up-close-personal look not only at the sex life of Matt and Lisa but also some fascinating underground rock bands. There’s a lot of sex, but it doesn’t seem pornographic or contrived, Hollywood-style, either. Art-film slick on a meager budget with unknown actors, this film received standing O’s at the Sundance and Toronto film festivals and was received by most critics with mixed, negative-leaning reviews.

Margo Stilley (Lisa) was the most fantastic breath of fresh air. She’s crazy and playful but also waiflike and enigmatic. If you get a chance, be sure to watch her cast interview because she’s whip-smart and cute in it, simultaneously. The whole movie plays like a memory, like nostalgia. There’s not really a plot, more just scenes, with this film isn’t really a story, it’s just a feeling you’re supposed to get and things Winterbottom is trying to get the audience to feel, something by which they can emote. Everything used in the film is painstaking and purposeful; even Matt’s narrated references to Antarctica and the “anatomy” of a glacier; how its layers tell a story–it all speaks metaphorically. It’s an interesting glimpse into where sex can really take us with another person, or perhaps where another person can take us with sex…either way, it’s cinematic food for thought. (And I really dig the music.)


Shortbus August 2, 2008

Posted by Victoria Fredericks in Movies.
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Kudos to John Cameron Mitchell and the fabulous ensemble cast for illuminating sex in a brave new way. I’ve never seen so much raw [read: unsimulated] sex in a movie aside from pornography, of course, which is part of what made this movie so groundbreaking when it was released in 2006. Let’s face it, films like this will probably never flow into the mainstream multiplexes of Anytown, USA; and Shortbus is unquestionably reserved for a slimmer percentage of liberated individuals. However explicit, the film far escapes being relegated as porn, smut or even erotica, and instead becomes true art and a multilayered look at human relationships.

Shortbus is a hedonistic flipbook of sexual moods and exploration. There’s Sofia (Sook-Yin Lee), a sex therapist who has raucous sex with her sweet husband Rob (Raphael Barker) but has not yet achieved orgasm, James (Paul Dawson) and Jamie (PJ DeBoy), a gay couple struggling with monogamy (and James’ depression makes a fascinating and gut-wrenching story), Ceth (Jay Brannan), a pretty model-musician who James and Jamie engage in three-way with, Severin (Lindsay Beamish), a professional dominatrix who clandestinely longs for true intimacy. All of the characters, even the minor ones, are memorable. 

Mitchell went at this project in a different way; after viewing special features and doing some research I learned that the cast was selected before a screenplay was even written, and the storylines were based on the actors’ personal contributions. In a film where sex is the binding glue, it seems only natural that there would be a close working dynamic between cast and director and of course the cast themselves (actors were screened for STDs prior to filming), and it is most evident when viewing the finished product. The actors are diverse and real, and I must commend their brave performances; there are few actors who would be willing to take such risks, especially for an indie-cult flick. Which underlines the belief that as progressive as American’s claim to be; when it comes to sex-lib, we still have leaps and bounds to go.

Shortbus is bound to teach, not preach. It may be drenched in sex, but at the end of the day, it proves it’s not about sex; but rather sex as a vehicle with which to more closely examine the underbelly of human nature and the complications that come from sexual liberation and relationships. There’s plenty of color and homoerotica for all…just dive in baby, and enjoy.