Thursday, December 1, 2011

Roger Ebert gives Shame 4-Stars!

As more critics come to view Shame and are now able to post their reviews, some seem to be going out of their way to find something wrong with the film and give it mixed reviews. Well, the premiere film critic of America, Roger Ebert gave Shame 4-stars in a review that really captured what the film is all about, and explains the shame of the principle character played by Michael Fassbender.

With the National Board of Review announcing it's Best of the Year today, and with Shame opening tomorrow in select cities, this review comes at a great time to help continue getting the good word out on Shame. As soon as you see it, please feel free to participate in the Shame poll. Here is Roger's review:

Sex is his cross to bear

Release Date: 2011
Ebert Rating: ****   
By Roger Ebert Nov 30, 2011

There's a close-up in "Shame" of Michael Fassbender's face showing pain, grief and anger. His character, Brandon, is having an orgasm. For the movie's writer-director, Steve McQueen, that could be the film's master shot. There is no concern about the movement of Brandon's lower body. No concern about his partner. The close-up limits our view to his suffering. He is enduring a sexual function that has long since stopped giving him any pleasure and is self-abuse in the most profound way.
Brandon is a good-looking, fit man in his early 30s, who lives alone in a sterile condo in Manhattan. He works in a cubicle with a computer. Never mind what his company does. It makes no difference to him. Sometimes in the evening, he and his boss, David (James Badge), go out to drink in singles bars. David is a little hyper with his pick-up lines. Brandon just sits there, his face impassive, and has better luck. He doesn't hope to get lucky. He doesn't think of it as luck. Sex is his cross to bear.

I remember when the notion of sexual addiction was first being mentioned. People treated it as a joke. It was referred to in late-night monologues. The American Psychiatric Association in 1987 defined it as a mental disorder involving "distress about a pattern of repeated sexual conquests … involving a succession of people who exist only as things to be used."

The APA is no longer certain it is a disorder. Whatever it is, Brandon suffers from it. In "Shame," however, he himself is the only thing being used. One or two of his sexual partners may be attracted to him in the sense that some men are attracted to nymphomaniacs. There is such a sadness involved.

"Shame" makes into a lie the universal assumption in movies that orgasms provide a pleasure to be pursued. The film's opening shot shows Brandon awake in the morning, staring immobile into space. He could be a man prepared to commit suicide. He gets out of bed, goes into the shower and masturbates. It will be the first of his many orgasms, solitary and with company, that day. He never reveals emotion. He lives like a man compelled to follow an inevitable course.

He is cold to people. To prostitutes, to co-workers, to strangers. On the subway, he trades eye contact with a woman who may be flirting. Is he flirting? To boldly maintain eye contact is a form of flirting and an aggressive challenge. But he doesn't smile. His is a dreadful life.

One day he comes home and someone is there. We think it may be an intruder. It is Sissy (Carey Mulligan), his sister, although for a time, we don't know that. He flies at her in a rage, telling her to get out. She has nowhere to go. He doesn't care.

His shame is masked in privacy. He wants no witnesses to his hookers, his pornography, his masturbation. Does he think he is incapable of ordinary human contact? In time, we will suspect that Brandon and Sissy shared childhood experiences that damaged them. McQueen wisely is not specific about the incidents.

Brandon lives in a cold, forlorn Manhattan. When he is in a group, he is alone. The sidewalks seem unusually empty. He knows where to go in order to have sex. In one sequence, that involves a gay bar. He isn't gay, in my opinion, but then how is he heterosexual? He loves no one, is attracted to no one, is driven to find occasions for orgasm — whether alone or in company hardly seems to matter.

The introduction of Sissy allows the film some spontaneity and life. She is as passionate and uninhibited as he is the opposite. She needs him desperately. He fears need. They rage at each other. She works sometimes as a cabaret singer, and in one scene, she performs a song heartbreakingly in close-up. This close-up also shows pain and grief, but no anger.

Not many actors would have the courage it took Michael Fassbender to play this role. He showed similar courage in McQueen's "Hunger" (2009), about the IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands. The actor and director seem to have found a common resolve in these films to show the thing itself, unalloyed by audience-pleasing techniques. Brandon can't even be said to visibly suffer. He is compelled to repeat the same behavior over and over, and all he gets from it is self-loathing. "Shame" is the correct title.

"Shame" contains unblinking truth. I have no doubt it depicts behavior that can be accurately called "sex addiction." The film suggests no help for Brandon, although toward the end, he moves somewhat in the direction of being able to care for another human being. For him, that involves being able to care for himself, despite the truth that he feels unworthy to be known. This is a great act of filmmaking and acting. I don't believe I would be able to see it twice.

Cast & Credits

Brandon Michael Fassbender
Sissy Carey Mulligan
David James Badge
Marianne Nicole Beharie

Fox Searchlight Pictures presents a film directed by Steve McQueen. Written by McQueen and Abi Morgan. Running time: 99 minutes. Rated NC-17 (for some explicit sexual content). 

Source: Roger Ebert


Ariel said...

Great review !

cinemachick said...

Roger Ebert is brilliant. The best written review of 'Shame' I've read so far. Thanks for posting, Simone!

Dionne said...

Bravo Ebert!

Veronica W. said...

This review is amazing, it’s beautiful. Roger Ebert knows his stuff and if he gives Shame 4-stars, then it is well deserving of kudos from the rest of the cinema crowd. I agree with everyone else: great review, brave Ebert, and this is DEFINITELY the best written review of Shame I’ve seen.

Rainy Days and Lattes said...

I'm going to try and see if I can watch this film tomorrow. A 4 star review from Ebert is pretty hard to come by, so I'm setting my sights to finding a theater nearby that will show it. Thank you for posting this review!

Rainy Days and Lattes said...

Oh no! Shame is not playing anywhere near me locally :( I have to drive all the way to San Francisco to watch it and that's like an hour away. Ah, bummer. Sorry I'm telling you this, but it seems you'd be the only person who understands my Michael Fassbender need! :p I don't know anyone in RL who admires Michael.

pati said...

It was very good read it.
This blog is wonderful

Simone said...

Rainy Days, are you able to drive to San Fran? Do you have a friend to go with you? Unless it's going to play in your area in the next two weeks, may I suggest you try really hard to get to San Fran? I don't think you'll regret it. :)

dshultz said...

I love Ebert, and even more so now that he has recognized Shame as the masterpiece it is. Ebert is probably the best known movie critic in America, so this has got to count for something.

Dr. Mindy Melonchest said...

Ahhh, someone who gets it, how refreshing. Excellent, well-thought out review as opposed to this kind of drivel:

Simone, please check out the comment I left the reviewer and pls tell me if you agree with my "take" on the film.

Thanks for the amazing blog, please keep up the great work.

Simone said...

Mindy, I think a lot of people will have a different take on the film, just as long as they find the film interesting and thought provoking.

In regards to that "review" in question,... I have no comment. ;-)

Dr. Mindy Melonchest said...

I especially liked this line from The New Yorker reviewer Anthony Lane, "Fassbender, who was, frankly, much sexier and more devilish in "X-Men: First Class,".

Yes, Steve McQueen why didn't you make him sexier and more devilish in this film about a man's suffering in his own self-destructive personal hell of addiction. That's just what a movie which depicts sex as an arbitrary robotic function instead of a sensuous act needs, more sexy devilishness, right?


Simone said...

I agree Dr. Mindy, the thing that has been irritating me with some of the criticism of Shame is that the critic miss the whole concept of what Shame is about. They want the back story of Brandon and Sissy explained, and because it's not, that's a massive plot failure. Brando is too doom and gloom, or an exhibitionist, or this and that, etc. I would respect constructive criticism, that would be fair, but criticism based on ignorance and the true lack of professionalism about how to critique a film... I don't have patience with. Go see Happy Feet Two if they are going to be that immature.

Liz said...

I hope like posted earlier Shame comes to Portland, Or or nearby Dec 16, but fandango and all movie theaters aren't posting movie schedules out that far yet. But I'll drive to Seattle if needs be, I've waited patiently this long, what's 10 more days lol.

Dr. Mindy Melonchest said...

Agreed but I guess it's just a "sign o' the times".