Friday, June 01, 2012


Shame is a small film, but it's come to international attention, I believe, because of two things. Firstly, Michael Fassbender is now a star, and seems to be in big movies (X-Men, Prometheus). And secondly, Shame is about sex addiction, and makes a pretty big visual statement about it.
Brandon, who lives in New York City, has carefully structured his life so that he can feed his sexual addiction many times a day. However, when his sister visits, his carefully structured world starts to come off the tracks.
This movie is an intense look at a man who has no other interests, no real friends, no intimacies. He lives only to feed his sexual impulses, over and over, many times a day. The movie does a good job of showing how much a slave Brandon is to this addiction.
On the prowl constantly, he looks on the subway trains, in the streets, goes to sex clubs (for men and women), calls hookers, even prowls the hallways at his job. He's an obsessed neat person at home, keeping everything spotless, and his life is a serial parade of sex partners. All very neat if not nice and certainly not perfect.
But when Sissy (Carey Mulligan)
comes on the scene, she stumbles onto several of his activities, including a laptop full of porn. Who keeps their porn available in the living room when their sister is visiting? While that seems ridiculous, that one example, and there are more, serves to explain how matter-of-fact Brandon is about his habit. Matter-of-fact, perhaps, but ashamed nonetheless.
Brandon really does have warmth toward his sister, but she's so clingy, so desperate herself, and so invasive that he has a hard time seeing in her anything other than an irritating distraction.
The sex is not titillating, at least to me. It's non-stop, perpetual, no mental or emotional foreplay implied. Brandon is not looking for connection, and neither are most of his partners. He's looking for physical release, and a physical release from this addiction, at least for a few minutes.
I thought an interesting juxtaposition that we see Brandon as a sex addicted man in the 21st century, a man to be pitied and perhaps judged as immoral, and yet he's surrounded by those friends who choose to have affairs outside their marriages. The boss who spends a preponderance of work time talking to his wife and kids a la Skype, but who prowls for available women every time he and Brandon go to a bar together after work. And then there are the women in the subway with obvious rings on their fingers who look like they're ready to have sex right then and there.
I can't pity Brandon. The guy is good looking enough and makes enough money to keep his life together. I would pity the man -- or woman -- who could not. Brandon has moral choices in many situations. But, because of his addiction, he chooses to make the wrong choice, or, what I think is more accurate, refuses to acknowledge that he has a choice at all.
Perhaps he is to be pitied after all. Thumb's up.


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