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This review is from: Shame [DVD] (DVD)
Directed by Steve McQueen, "Shame" explores sexual addiction, alienation, and loneliness in contemporary New York City. With its many sex scenes, the film manages to be unerotic. The movie and its actors have received numerous accolades. The acting is convincing and the scenes of city life well drawn. Many viewers will find this film disturbing.
The film stars Michael Fassbender as a successful 30ish professional named Brandon who cannot control his sexual appetites or channel his sexuality into a relationship. Brandon is both a predator and a victim. He is apparently able to pick up attractive similarly lonely women on the spot for short encounters. Brandon also uses the services of prostitutes. When he is home alone, he watches pornography and camgirls on his computer. He gets confronted with a wide range of pornographic material on his office computer. He is unable to function in an attempted relationship with a coworker, Marianne, (Nichole Beharie) which involves attempted emotion beyond sex. Fassbender plays this role well in his lines, dress, gestures, and facial expressions. He has a sense of decency and is at war with himself.
The other primary character in "Shame" is Brandon's younger sister Sissie played by Carrie Mulligan. Sissie has suicidal tendencies and is emotionally needy. She moves in with Brandon early in the film and the emotional tension mounts between the siblings as the movie progresses. Each sees the serious, devastating issues in the life of the other. Brandon's sexual addition and his relationship with Sissie become intertwined and form the two themes of this movie.
The movie makes have use of atmosphere to establish the sordid character of Brandon's mind. There are many scenes of crowded subways which capture the lonely, solitary character of much urban life. There are pick-up scenes in bars, from the fancy to the seedy, which stress lack of emotional connection. The movie shows several scenes of paid sex between Brandon and various women together with the shame and sadness felt by both parties. The musical score is ominous and brooding, punctuated by Glenn Gould playing Bach and by various pop songs. Sissie is trying to make it as a singer and, in a pivotal scene of the movie, offers a rendition of "New York New York" in the company of Brandon and his boss.
The movie includes substantial nudity, male and female. To their credit, the producers declined to soften the movie to receive an "R" rather than a "NC-17" rating. The movie offers an effective portrayal of how sex can become a narcotic to deal with loneliness in a harsh world.