Apr 12, 2012

Before Girly Night, Pt 2 last night

I had a Me Party (h/t to the divine Miss Piggy and enchanting Amy Adams) in the City.  I took BART, listening to my Twee playlist (Talulah Gosh/Pastels/Vaselines/Aztec Camera) and reading Molly Ivins Can't Say That, Can She? whilst on my way to the cinema.

Outside the theater the banner proclaims, "The most intimate movie experience in San Francisco" and they are not kidding.  The theater was tiny, just thirty-four seats.  I know.  I counted them. And I was not the only person there! Hoo-ray! There was a gay couple, dudes, at the very back; a straight couple right behind me; and the odd folks, a lady and a man, not together, across the "aisle", as it were, from me.

I had some popcorn and some clear hody and settled in for the film.  There were a ton of previews.  Here are some of them:

(By the by, I was at an NC-17 film -- shoulda been an R, more on this later -- so, I got to see some pretty racy, heavy trailers, including one, God Bless America, which sported the infamous Red Band Trailer Title Card.  God Bless America, written and directed by Bob -- he's dropped the "cat", apparently -- Goldthwait, looks like a complete waste of an intriguing subject matter.  Anyroad, ... )

This Willem Dafoe thing looks awful, too.

And I have no words to describe this extremely creepy weird looking film.  Is it made by Scientologists, or what?

But, I did get to see the trailer for this.  This looks fantastic, and, uh, yeah, that is Orson Welles "singing" I Know What It is to Be Young.


Shame is very very good.  It is not a masterpiece, which is what director Steve McQueen seems to try just a bit too hard to make, but it is very very good.  And it is much better than his first film, Hunger, which also stars Michael Fassbender.

One of the best things about the film is its objectivity, which I almost always seem to admire in films these days.  McQueen and his co-writer, Abi Morgan, never pass judgement on Fassbender's Brandon character, they just tell his story.  Yet, there is no real plot per se.  The film hangs on the collision of two very damaged people, a brother and sister.  And Shame only barely suggests what might have scarred these two for life, which is fine by me.  I have my notions on what happened to them, to make them the way they are.

There are great acting performances all over Shame:  Fassbender, Carey Mulligan, Nicole Beharie (who Renee and I saw in the little jewel of a courtroom drama, American Violet), and Elizabeth Masucci all do an outstanding job.  But my favorite acting performance from Shame was the one by Lucy Walters.  Ms Walters' part in the movie is listed as Woman on the Subway, and she does not have a single line.  She appears in two scenes that bookend the film and it is the first scene she plays that I will be thinking about for a very long time to come.  This scene tells the story of Fassbender and Walters' silent, therefore secret, commuter relationship.  It starts with Walters recognition of Fassbender's intense amorous stare.  She pays him the compliment of his respectful attention with a shy smile and then looks away.  Fassbender never takes his eyes off her, though.  When she comes back to his gaze, she sighs, gathers her strength and returns his stare, flirting with him without speaking.  But she cannot match Fassbender's intensity and finally looks down for a moment.  The smile is gone now and the look on her face tells me that she has already played through their entire potential relationship in her mind:  The sex they would have, the horrible guilt they would earn for their illicit gamble, the fact that any intimate relationship would destroy any chance of friendship between them, the possibility he could be a stalker or a dangerous person, the horrible silence before they part ways, the awful furtiveness, the liberating awesome fantasy fulfilled, the thrill of being bad, and so much more.  Fassbender never takes his eyes off her, though.  The last time she looks back at him she looks scared.  His harmless flirting seems to have turned in to something more threatening and sinister.  Walters gets up from her seat and walks to the door as the train pulls in to the station.  We see her wedding ring as she grabs the rail to maintain her balance.  Fassbender stands just behind her, not quite touching, but as close as you could be without touching.  The subway doors open.

But that is just one scene in a film full of great scenes.  The scene where Ms Mulligan sings at a nightclub is one of the most moving and special things I have seen in years.  Even Fassbender's midnight run through Manhattan is memorable.  (Of course it does not hurt to have Glenn Gould playing Bach's Prelude and Fugue No. 10 in E Minor in the background as hottie Fassbender gallops through the City.  And all the music in the film is superb with a haunting original score and a blend of 70s disco and Gould playing Bach.)  All of Fassbender's scenes with Ms Beharie are rich and wonderful, as well.

There are only two hiccups in the film as far as I am concerned and one of those is so ticky-tack as to be completely unnoticeable to a vast majority of film-goers.  (Fassbender and Beharie are served a bottle of Pinot Noir at a fancy restaurant.  The Pinot is in a Bordeaux bottle and there is no where on earth that Pinot would be packaged in that type of bottle.  Even the Kiwis and Alsatians use Burgundy bottles for their Pinot Noir.)  The other misstep is considerably more serious and I was, for a minute in the theater, slightly worried the film might unravel, but it did not. This would be a part of Fassbender's Sex Bender Sequence near the end of the film that I am loathe to reveal, so as not to spoil anything for anyone.  But this part of the sequence seemed unnecessary and fell flat, to boot, for this reviewer.

But on the whole, Shame is an absolutely smashing, heavy, serious, moving, adult motion picture that I will add to my collection as soon as it becomes available.  It is a toughy, though.  And there is a lot of passionless sex and nudity in it.  No one is making love in Shame.

To finish, How is it that The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo earned an R rating while Shame got an NC-17? Heaven forbid a male actor free his willy for the camera! Or a woman has a loud orgasm. Or there be explicit gay sex.

Anyhoo, if it seems your type of thing, most definitely see Shame.

Carey's all growns now and soon to wed.  She had her hen party two weeks ago.  

-- Ardent

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