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Thread: SHAME (Steve McQueen 2011)

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul 2002
    SF Bay Area

    SHAME (Steve McQueen 2011)


    A cold wall of sex in Manhattan

    Shame goes into wider release in the US today (Dec. 2, 2011). You don't need to see it, but you probably will want to know about it. It may even come up at Oscar time. I reviewed it as part of this year's New York Film Festival. Shame is a film about a handsome but very cold New York corporate employee who is a raging sex addict. It stars Michael Fassbender (Inglourious Basterds; X-Men: First Class]) and Cary Mulligan (Drive and An Education).

    The director, Steve McQueen, is the Turner Prize-winning British visual artist whose stunning and relentless depiction of the imprisonment and death of Bobby Sands in Hunger won the first-time filmmaker Caméra d'Or award at Cannes in 2008. Hunger starred Michael Fassbender in a physically wrenching performance that put him on the international map as a film actor. Fassbender and McQueen have teamed up a second time for an equally extreme but far different theme in Shame.

    Shame debuted at Venice and was shown also at Toronto; and New York, where it was screened for this review. Fox Searchlight bought the film for US release December 2, 2011. The French release is to be December 7; UK, January 13, 2012. In the US it has received an NC-17 rating.

    You'll find the original Filmleaf review of Shame here.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 12-02-2011 at 10:54 PM.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2002
    SF Bay Area

    Metacritic rating "generally favorable" (71)


    Metacritic sums up the reviews of Shame that it's reviewed as a 71 or "generally favorable," mainly because of the many very negative reactions that offset a number of solid raves. Reviewers whose evaluations the site rates at a solid 100 are Amy Biancoli - SF Chronicle, Roger Ebert - Chicago Sun Times, Todd McCarthy - Hollywood Reporter, Andrew O'Hehir -, and Justin Chang -Variety. Kenneth Turan - LA Times' rating is given as 90, james Berardinelli - ReelViews is ranked at an 88. Then it blends down.

    Publications in the increasingly strong minus column (60 or below) include NPR, the NYTimes, Box Office Magazine, Slate, Entertainment Weekly, NY Observer (Reed), Village Voice (Hoberman), The New Yorker (Lane), Slant, and the Chicago Reader (Ben Sachs).

    This is a really strong split, as befits a director who seeks touchy topics.

    Gonzalez of Slant says "Shame articulates a shallow, even mundane, understanding of an uninteresting man's sex addiction-in a vibrant city rendered dull and anonymous."

    Chicago Reader says "Most of the film feels recycled from sexually explicit art movies dating back at least to "Last Tango in Paris" (1972) and continuing with movies like Patrice Chéreau's "Intimacy" (2001) or Götz Spielmann's "Antares" (2004). With nothing new in its characters, settings, or themes, Shame has little to offer except McQueen's style, which does little to elucidate anything around it."

    I think both of these comments are valid. This is offset however by the fact that McQueen knows how to command attention and assert the seriousness and elegance of his endeavor and his style. For me it worked in Hunger. Here for me it does not.

    I have kept remembering Soderbergh's experimental (and somewhat half-hearted, much less ambitious) Girlfriend Experience. That "Experience" is a very chlly and chilling one. There, Soderbergh's NYC also is a world of sex obsession and the sex trade and it too is "a vibrant city rendered dull and anonymous." The Girlfriend Experience is a minor film, and yet I can't see that Shame goes beyond it enough. Now I'm remembering Abel Ferrara's Bad Lieutenant, which takes its protagonist to darker levels of moral depravity and despair and makes you think and feel more. Not the nutty new Herzog Bad Lieutenant, which is too much fun to take you to any such places but is a better movie to watch at home, by far, than these others.

    But bear in mind that Fassbender and McQueen makes for a powerful collaborative team, and together even with this much less convincing subject than Bobby Sands, the make Shame a film that has to be mentioned at year's end.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 12-22-2011 at 10:39 AM.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2002
    The key artistic decision when it comes pathological portraiture like SHAME is whether to be fixed on the here-and-now or to incorporate past events as having some kind of causal relationship to current behavior and functioning. SHAME chooses to confirm that there is a history of shared trauma between these desperate siblings and then chooses not to make it explicit at all, to remain mysterious. The film creates a psychoanalytic framework and then leaves it empty. Whether that is enough...whether the film satisfies one's idea of arty and insightful psychopathological drama will depend on individual expectations. I enjoyed the performances but that only gets you so far.


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