SHAME

8 out of 10

Release Date: 13th January 2012

Director: Steve McQueen: (12 Years a Slave / Hunger)

Cast: Michael Fassbender, Carey Mulligan, Nicole Behari and James Badge Dale

Writer: Steve McQueen

Trailer: SHAME 

To be proofread & edited: Michael Fassbender must have had dry balls after he finished shooting Shame.  Man, there’s a lot of f*cking in this film but none of it is up there for titilation (although I think fellow Britpic critic Joe Pesci II may see some merit to watching it in the nude). No, Shame is a seriously good film about a man afflicted with a sex addiction.  Michael Fassbender plays Brandon, a confident Irish New Yorker who works in the advertising industry.  In this working environment of endless socialising and the 24hour convenience culture of the city he is able to disguise his routines even from himself.  It’s when his flamboyant, emotional train wreck of a sister, Sissy (CAREY MULLIGAN – DRIVE) gatecrashes his apartment for a week that his life begins to falter.

Shame is one of those angry, solo man films like Taxi Driver or A Single Man, in which we get to spend a few days with a single character as they overcome or succumb to the obstacles that life has thrown up for them.  Shame reminded me a lot of some of Paul Schrader’s films like Light Sleeper or Affliction in that Brandon is a complex man who is inexplicably angry and closed off from those around him.  It takes an outsider to try and crack their way in to show us what this person is really like. Sissy’s intrusion in Brandon’s ordered life sends him spiralling out of control (instead of exploding he quietly implodes).  He begins to question his constant need for sexual gratification, be it a late night threesome or a quick hand shake with the old man in his basement (code for a wank).  We see him try to engage with a sweet co-worker (NICOLE BEHARI) but discovers that he just can’t commit and flounders.  His sister latches inappropriately with his boss (JAMES BADGE DALE – THE GREY) and causes no end of friction.  She is chaos, he is order.

I’ve not seen director Steve McQueen‘s debut Hunger but this is my second favourite Michael Fassbender film performance after Fish Tank and he’s ably matched by a wonderful Carey Mulligan.  The script is insightful without being preachy and we’re not left to judge the character.  Brandon is what he is. Will he successfully change over time? The film offers no straight answers but it still keep sous on the hook. The decision to shoot the film in New York as opposed to a British city is also a success.  The city feels very real and benefits from being shot by outsiders. A scene where Brandon runs four blocks in the dead of night is a great emotional primer as we see him battling alone, trying to distance himself from his loneliness and his wretchedness. The music score is and the choice of featured songs and classical pieces also fits Shame perfectly. The sex is as explicit as you would expect from such a serious filmmaker as Steve McQueen and perverted females and homosexuals amongst you will be pleased to see that Michael Fassbender‘s dick makes an extended cameo…  I tried to close my eyes but it still poked me in the ribs.

I wonder though if Shame would have been made if they’d have cast an ugly / old or both actor, say Bob Hoskins or Ice T as Brandon. Its very telling that because our lead is supposedly desirable, that he doesn’t come across like a hairy palmed Harry Palmer.  That’s my only quibble and it’s a silly one really. But maybe Shame 2 could have an uglier cast just to experiment.

8 out of 10 – Great in every way. A porno with enviable production values, as well as drawing our attention to a very real addiction that is thrashing bed frames world wide.  I just wanted more scenes where a character goes “Hello. I kem to feex da freej, ya?”

Review below by Matt “U Can’t Touch This, but U CAN touch This!” Usher aka Joe Pesci II

WHAT HAVE I SEEN THAT PERSON IN BEFORE?

  • Michael Fassbender: Assassin’s Creed, X Men 5, Steve Jobs, Macbeth (2015), Slow West, Frank, X Men 4, 12 Years a Slave, The Counsellor, Prometheus, Haywire, A Dangerous Method, Jane Eyre (2011), X Men – First Class, Jonah Hex, Centurion, Fish Tank, Inglourious Basterds, Eden Lake, Hunger,  300, Band Of Brothers (TV)
  • Carey Mulligan: Suffragette, Far From The Madding Crowd (2015), Inside Llewyn Davis, The Great Gatsby (2013), Drive, Never Let Me Go, Wall Street 2, An Education
  • James Badge Dale: The Walk, Parkland, World War Z, The Lone Ranger (2013),  Iron Man 3, The Grey, 24 (TV), Lord Of The Flies (1990)
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One thought on “SHAME

  1. SHAME. Review by Matt “Michael Fassbender’s willy botherer” Usher aka Joe Pesci II

    Steve McQueen needs better people to advise him. So here am I, late in the day admittedly. Qualifications? None, other than being someone who sat through McQueen’s film SHAME right to the end. I have only one bit of advice: when telling a story make sure you choose the right central character. SHAME is about a damaged woman with almost nowhere to turn; in desperation she crosses the country (the USA! Yes! Britpic’s visiting America!) to see her estranged and strange brother. He’s variously uninterested and hostile. There are hints of the usual traumas – suicide attempts, incest etc, and they neither of them mention their parents (at least, I hope that was deliberate and not just absent-mindedness on the scriptwriter’s part). Alone and unloved the woman resorts to drastic measures. However, instead of focussing on her the film centres on the brother (Michael Fassbender as a New York-based Irishman), a tedious mid-ranking executive in an unspecified job (like Richard Gere in all those 80s movies, where there’s always an important but dull subplot about who’ll get the Hamilton account). His story is a lot less interesting: all he does is have lots of meaningless if inventive sex and an obsession with cleaning. And yet, he is our central character. And so, we follow him as he avoids the existential emptiness of his meaningless and boring life, throwing himself into any passing woman purely due to the sheer boredom of being a middle-ranking executive looking after the Hamilton account.

    However, the thoughtless arrival of his sister knocks him out of this rut he didn’t know he was in so then we have to follow him around as his life falls apart (he gets so upset he throws his naughty magazines away and does rude things with a bloke). But hang on a moment: the worst he goes through in this film (apart from being beaten up a bit, and failing to ejaculate into a nice lady he seemed to be getting on with, and being found out to be the office pervert) is an unwanted visitor. The visitor though (i.e. his sister) is going through a much worse time. But the film-makers aren’t interested in her, the only reason she does something drastic is so that we can see how it affects poor Fassbender. It upsets him a lot (cue collapsing in the rain and agonised silent crying) and he finally pulls himself together and gets the girl of his dreams, even though an hour earlier he was stalking her in a subway like Elijah Wood in MANIAC. (Or does he get her? Maybe not, maybe he hasn’t learned his lesson after all, and he’s just as bad as he was at the start of the film? The ending is clearly meant to be enticingly ambiguous.)

    This isn’t a film about sex so much as about the spiritual emptiness of the modern man. Without family, without a vocation, without community and without any religious or cultural sustenance, Fassbender’s character has been addicted to sex as a way of avoiding the world (or he may be taking Schopenhauer’s theories about the orgasm a little too far – who knows?) but let’s face it: had he been addicted to trainspotting or su doku this would have been a somewhat different film, well, it wouldn’t have been made of course. But the point is that this is yet another not particularly good film masquerading as something deep using a fig-leaf of nudity in order to pretend to ask really important questions about who we are and what we’re doing and all that stuff when really it’s just an exercise in style.

    And it’s certainly a stylish film, in a bad sense. Everything is very cool and controlled, New York looking like a very empty city (not because it is a particularly empty place but to emphasise the fact that Fassbender is isolated there). This being an arty film we get lots of set-piece bits, like Fassbender going jogging (not just any old jogging but proper existential jogging: what is he running from? Himself? Then he is doomed to run forever. Or it may just be that his sister’s having sex in his apartment with Chase Edmunds from popular TV show 24). And then there’s the endless restaurant scene with a comedy waiter. And then we have to watch Carey Mulligan sing ‘New York, New York’ heartbreakingly, all of it of course, in a single shot. This is to emphasise how unhappy and generally doomed she is. (Actually I think this is my main issue with SHAME: watching it I finally realised that Carey Mulligan isn’t going to be reprising Sally Sparrow in Doctor Who.) And then there’s the eclectic soundtrack, all very nice, but screaming out ‘what an eclectic soundtrack this is!’ Mind you, it made a change that the classical music (Bach played by the ever-misunderstood Glenn Gould) wasn’t put to sinister use.

    As for the maudlin ending where our hero achieves some sort of completely unearned hope of redemption (or does he? Oh the ambiguity!), words fail me. (Ah! But that’s the point of course, that our redemption is unexpected, oh shut up.) SHAME is certainly a very very serious film about the kinds of people who can afford to worry about their spiritual malaises but don’t, it just isn’t anywhere near as interesting, important, clever or controversial as it thinks it is. Michael Fassbender continues to be a mystery to me but Carey Mulligan is criminally underused (hat with it really being her film and all).

    Oh, I suppose I ought to say something about the supposedly endless sex in the film. Well, there’s a fair bit, but be assured that all of it is there in a completely ungratuitous way, designed purely to demonstrate how unhappy Fassbender is, and how unaware he is that he’s unhappy. SHAME is meant to be a brave, cold, objective study of alienation and emptiness, but it just ends up being extremely good looking self-pitying misery-porn.

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