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Film review, SHAME from Built For Speed

Shame is sure to divide both audiences and critics.  Some will see it as a mesmerizing depiction of urban anomie and perverted desire; others will think it’s a boring, pretentious load of cobblers.  Few will dispute, though, that Michael Fassbender gives a sensational performance in the lead role.

Fassbender plays a slicked-back, square-jawed corporate type named Brandon who also happens to be a sex addict.  Whether it’s in New York’s plush bars or on the sinister looking subway trains, he’s relentlessly pursuing women for sex.   Even though he has remarkable success in picking up women, his liaisons are emotionless and robotic as he has no desire for real intimacy. His strange yet highly ordered life of one night stands, work, prostitutes and internet masturbation is thrown into chaos, though, when his self-destructive sister Sissy (Carey Mulligan) lands on his doorstep.  The film hints that a traumatic past has scarred Sissy but whether Fassbender contributed to or saved her from this trauma is (annoyingly) never made clear.

This film has been compared to Last Tango in Paris for its gratuitous sex scenes and Fassbender does spend a lot of time on the job, fortunately, though, there’s no misuse of dairy products.

Director Steve McQueen also evokes Kubrik with his use of classical music, precise framing and tracking shots; although, he has an irritating tendency to hold some shots for what seems like an eternity.  Shame is particularly reminiscent of Eyes Wide Shut as the seemingly clean-cut, suited professional ventures into a weird nocturnal world of sexual obsession.   The difference is that while Eyes Wide Shut had a bizarre comical side, Shame is grim from start to finish.

Fassbender is quickly emerging as one of the finest actors around and few others could have provided the mix of charm, intensity and creepiness required here.  Carey Mulligan also impresses in a more confronting role than we’ve seen from her before although her American accent is a bit wobbly.

Because of the film’s slender plot and McQueen’s exceedingly long takes, some will see Shame as nothing more than pretentious fluff.   Others, though, will revel in this dark and disturbing film as it forces us to re-think how we interact with those around us and with sexuality itself.

 

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