quarta-feira, janeiro 18, 2012

Shame (2011)


If only I had a pound for every time I wished I brought a notepad with me to the cinema...

It's so frustrating to have so many ideas, so many elements of comparison and details that you want need to write down, but you just can't! Sure you have your mobile phone, but between feeling bad about having the light on and trying to hit the right keys, you lose the rhythm and track of what's happening on screen.

After watching Shame (2011), Steve McQueen's second directional effort after the critically acclaimed Hunger (also with Michael Fassbender), I tried in the best of my ability to make mental notes and as I left the cinema, in complete awe and silence, I engaged a conversation with my friend not only to have a share of opinions, but also to keep "the material" fresh!

Too bad I couldn't keep it all together... especially in a case where I need to be extra careful with what I chose to write about. The reason is simple... Since I started writing in the blog, I always did an effort to be as generalist as I could and not give away any information that could be perceived as "spoilers". Matter of the fact is, regarding Shame, that can be very tricky, as I feel highly inclined into turning my guesses into firmed assumptions, and my firmed assumptions into certainties! I want not only to introduce the movie, but also talk about it... discuss it. Provoke you, the reader, into sharing your take on it. To lead you in to telling me what you think it's right or wrong.
I feel like I could go on and on about Shame, like I was writing a dissertation. It would be as close as I would get from writing one!

Never mind what the reviews say or some opinions that you have heard. Unless someone goes into exact detail, you can't ever be prepared for what's about to follow during that one hour and forty minutes of intense narrative. Like always, I can give away a few of the emotions the directing, cast or soundtrack have evoked on my part... but that only takes you so far!

From the get go, as we are introduced with the lead character, the sexual predator, Brandon and his daily routine, we see an extension of Patrick Bateman, a character created by Bret Easton Ellis that was made famous in the best seller (after adapted to a movie) called American Psycho. We sense there is some trouble in him... Some obsession(s) to which very soon you can point your finger at, only to realize afterwards we were just merely touching the surface!

Mid way through the movie, I actually thought this was indeed American Psycho, and Michael Fassbender was Christian Bale playing the role of Bateman. 
It was almost like watching Mary Harron's take on the book, without the killing, the wit, the black humor or the pop-culture references. Obviously there's a lot more to it when it comes to comparing both films... But those were some of the immediate thoughts I had when thinking of the two of them. 
The thing with Shame is that it felt more real, and consequence of that "reality" just brought on to your face, it became more disturbing! You start thinking of stuff you can't honestly say you dedicated some of your time to assess and make conclusions. Not to say you actually have time to do a great reflection upon the subjects during the course of the movie. So much going on and everything so intense, provocative and a lot of the times dirty! I mean... there comes a time or two in which it is actually filthy! But... it couldn't be any other way and Steve McQueen knows it. He knows it too well. There's a very thin line between what is actually needed to be done artistically/aesthetically or what is done just for the sake of shocking the audience and leaving a mark. This can also be a very valid argue. If I feel like saying, a minute of two could be taken off... immediately my conscious strikes back by saying: NO! That might ruin the entire thing! So just leave it as it is and make the best out of it. I'm sure that's what McQueen wants. I'm sure he knows what he is doing... 
With exception of one particular scene (not to be revealed), I wouldn't change a thing of what he has done with this astonishing, yet disturbing, motion picture.

Going back on it, I lost my breath so many times... There were scenes in which I almost couldn't bear to look at the screen... but something kept me pulling rather than making me look away. I felt like I was in for the ride, no matter what and just surrendered myself for the entire session! Not that it was a sacrifice watching it. Not at all! But I won't lie and say it was a walk in the park... But if in the beginning I felt slightly teased, as it progressed I felt provoked and some times disgusted, for what I was seeing, but most of all for what I was thinking. I even went so far as relating this to another movie called Mysterious Skin (2004), directed by Greg Araki. This analogy probably came from the fact that Araki's work is also heavily graphic, dark and twisted. But just to outline one of the major differences, in Mysterious Skin, beyond all that chaos and misery I can actually find something beautiful and comforting, while in Shame I'm right where I started. I was left in the exact same position from when I began this trip, through Brandon's eyes! Outraged, sad and in utter despair, like I was sharing his curse, turned into shame!

This is a consequence of McQueen's superb vision and writing, but a lot must be said about Fassbender's tour de force, as he offers the viewer a candid and disturbingly intimate portrayal of a sex addict, being this just one of his (many) problems.

Carey Mulligan, doesn't let her get behind, as she also delivers a magnificent performance as Brandon's troubled sister. The love she nourishes for her brother is only overcome by her insecurity and "maybe" horrible past.
There is more to both the characters than meets the eye... even beneath the information that is given to the viewer, there is a lot more to those two damaged brothers!
Both the actors have made their recent role choices very wisely and they have been getting their hands in a lot of great projects... This particular one comes as probably being the best performance (from an individual standpoint) in some time!

Oh... and about the soundtrack?!
It's a mix of great classic themes, from Bach to John Coltrane, with Blondie and even a slow render of New York, New York, sang by Carey Mulligan. But it's the memorable score by the movie's composer, Harry Escott, that steals the show (musically speaking). One theme only was enough to bring powerful emotions and make some scenes look unforgettable.

So much more to be said... so much left to be written, but I must admit I'm feeling exhausted. The film was enough to drain me mentality, so be aware that this post was actually a struggle on both ends. Needed to recover from what I just saw in order to do some proper writing, but also needed to do it right away, otherwise would be taking the risk of compromising part of the essence that needed to be described.

In conclusion, I just want to make the following suggestion:

Make sure you see Shame in the cinema with someone that is close to you, so both can talk about it later and dissect every single aspect that has either impressed or repugnant you. But don't think of it as an exercise but as a way of "getting it out of your system". 

I assure you, you will want and need to do so...

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