Pornography is certainly a
legitimate art form. However, for years, serious filmmakers have been
trying -- mostly unsuccessfully -- to straddle the lines between art house
cinema and extremely explicit sex. Recently there was Brit director
Michael (24-Hour Party People, Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story)
Winterbottom's musical love/sex story Nine Songs -- which
basically chronicled the relationship of a couple who went to concerts and
had sex. Oh sure, there were some arty symbols and some hip bands, but
essentially you were watching long scenes of people having sex. Which,
as anyone who has ever watched pornography can attest, is very interesting
for a limited time and then quickly becomes tedious after the itch has been
Now comes Shortbus
from Hedwig and the Angry Inch auteur John Cameron Mitchell.
Shortbus is not really pornographic although it most certainly is
very graphic. Unlike Nine Songs, the movie does not dwell
on the individual sex acts. They are usually rather short, in fact,
however they include some rather explicit images including penetration,
hetero and gay intercourse, group sex, self-fellatio, sex toys, voyeurism,
B&D, urination, orgasms -- all of which made this movie a nearly impossible sale in
The irony is, though, that
the shocking visuals of Shortbus are generally at the service of some
surprisingly square, traditional storylines -- though granted tarted up with
arty excess and flamboyant sleaziness. Still, Shortbus is
really about a group of people whose desperately miserable (or at least
dysfunctional) lives are only made bearable by love... though in this film
love and sex can be rather interchangeable.
Most of the action revolves
around a group of New York arty types who try to find love, compassion and
understanding in the titular sex club -- a Plato's Retreat for the new
millennium where the fabulous meet with the frustrated for an anything goes
(but only if you want it to...) extended orgy.
However, the film really is
most interested in a couple of love stories and the tale of a couple of
Some of the symbolism is a
little easy and obvious. Sofia (Sook-Yin Lee) is a sex therapist who
has never been with another man than her husband and is completely unable to
have an orgasm.
Severin (Lindsay Beamish)
is a professional dominatrix who would really like to be able to relate to
people on a one-on-one basis -- which, given her chosen profession, must be
a bit of a problem.
James (Paul Dawson) is a
former gay prostitute who is inexplicably miserable in a happy, long-term
relationship with a has-been sitcom star (PJ DeBoy).
They are all welcomed by the
master (mistress?) of ceremonies, drag queen Justin Bond as himself, and are
surrounded by a cross-section of the beautiful and not-so-beautiful people
of the village (including an elderly man who claims to be a former mayor of
What follows is lots of
navel-gazing, tons of arty and symbolic directing touches and sudden,
in-your-face sexuality. It's an interesting ride, but most of it is
not as shocking or intriguing as it wants to be. (3/07)
Copyright ©2007 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved.
Posted: March 10, 2007.