Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Sly Fox Watches Films - Shame

For some reason, my friend Sarah and I always tend to see the most depressing and intense movies together. To explain what’s about to happen in this post, there are a few things you should know first. Sarah and I are film carnivores; we devour movie information, our favorite sites being the Internet Movie Database and the AV Club. We are constantly emailing back and forth throughout our workdays with links to articles about actors signing onto projects or links to interviews with our favorite directors, writers, or actors. We listen to weekly podcasts (check out Filmspotting, it's free)  which offer a more in depth looks at upcoming releases. 

Never try to challenge us to play any game related to movies.

Sarah and I used to live together, and when we discovered Netflix in 2005 our lives were changed forever. Our queue became unmanageable with over 300 titles listed, and Sarah's best and worst act as a roommate occurred in 2008 when she left for France for three months and moved every horror film in our queue to the top of the list. Needless to say, her summer away was a bit of a weird one for me. This type of dedication and fascination with following new releases, as well as going back to revisit the classics, means that we spend the occasional awkward movie-going experience together as we’ve chosen to see a film with a not-so-pleasant plot because, well, it just interests us.
My boyfriend, Cooper, used to work at the best (and really only) independent movie theater in town called Film Streams.It was here we had our first date. We saw this incredibly complicated and funny movie called In The Loop,and one of the many perks of dating an employee of the theater (other than the trash bags full of movie popcorn he’d bring home) was that he could bring home DVD screeners of almost all of the movies that were showing. 

I’ve always had a small place in my heart for independent film and as I get older, it’s something that I appreciate and seek out more and more. One of my favorite movies that was featured at Film Streams was a movie called Tiny Furniture. It was a movie that really spoke to me and where I was in my life. A college graduate coming back to live at home and re-acclimate with the life that I had not-so-recently left behind for “bigger and better” things. Now, I realize that this is far from a new idea, and while I hate the term “coming-of-age”, the more I interacted with people from my hometown who, like me, had these grandiose ideas about who you would be after you followed the path that so many beforehand had went, the more I came to appreciate what was actually going on around me. And that was a whole lot of avoidance. Sure, a lot of us have full time jobs with benefits, and while we feel like sell outs, it’s better than the alternative of working at Whole Foods and getting drunk every night and sleeping until noon. I’m not sure why this “what am I supposed to do now?” topic is such a troublesome and self-deprecating one for so many people my age.The entire process is a selfish one full of destructive tendencies, but that’s a conversation to have another time. 

Shame Movie Poster
Back to the subject at hand, which was only outlined in the first sentence of this post, my friend Sarah and I, in our tradition of awkward movie seeing,  went and saw Shame at the Dundee Theater last Saturday afternoon. We sat in the theater, enjoyed some small chit chat, and then the movie began. To give a very basic synopsis, the film follows the protagonist Brandon over the span of only a few days. His life is one that seems ordinary. A man in his 30’s who has a successful career and a nice enough apartment in NYC, oh and he suffers from a sex addiction. Brandon’s world is one of polarizing duality and his livelihood is shaken to the core when his sister, who is just as lost as he is, shows up at his apartment. The rest that follows is the complete unwinding of a man who is haunted by a past that the audience is never made aware of, but still senses was terrible enough to create the character in front of us. Did I mention the movie is rated NC-17? Yeah, there’s a shit load of SEX.SEX.SEX.SEX.MORESEX. To the point where one could argue it becomes straight pornography, but it still needs to be shown to fully understand the state of mind of the character. The film culminates in a long drawn out series of scenes which is the equivalent of a drug bender but instead of drugs, well you can probably guess what happens. I would say it was equally as intense and uncomfortable to watch as the final scenes of Requiem for a Dream, but instead of going back and forth between these completely depressing states of 4 different characters, Shame focuses just on one. 

Michael Fassbender as Brandon
After the movie ended Sarah and I left the theater without even talking about what we had just seen. Instead, we made plans to meet up later that night to discuss, and we went about our Saturday afternoons. When we met for drinks, both of us nearly started blurting out all of the thoughts and connections we were attempting to make. There were a lot of ideas being thrown out there, but I think the one that stuck out the most was that this film really carried sex addiction in a way that opened the topic up for debate but gave you a close-to real life example that made you potentially reconsider your stance on the subject.

Carey Mulligan as Sissy, performing "New York, New York"
In Shame you are allowed via Brandon's character to experience, albeit second hand, how this type of addiction adheres a day to day life. And there's no stopping it. No matter how wrong you know it is, no matter how many people catch you in the act, the addiction pulls you further in until you're literally fucking yourself into oblivion. Again, the audience isn't given a whole lot of back story as to how Brandon and Sissy became the people who are standing before us. There is always this sense that something very dark happened to each of them when they were young (Sarah and I theorized incest) and Sissy's line toward the end of the movie is terribly haunting, "We're not bad people, we just come from a bad place."


Sex Addiction is a subject that causes a lot of debate in the medical field, the argument being posed is whether hyper sexuality can be representative of an actual addiction or even a psychological/psychiatric condition at all. Shame is a movie that leaves this argument and it’s assumptions at the door. This movie is not a champion to sway the argument either way; it simply presents an objective viewpoint where the audience member can draw their own conclusions. I believe that a lot of events and just basic DNA go into making someone who they are.
So while Shame caused some mild discomfort for approximately four hours (90 minutes of movie, 2.5 hours of digesting what had happened), it’s after effects are not as intense, in fact, given the opportunity, I would watch Shame all over again. 

- Sly Fox

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