SHAME

I admire this film.

If you don’t think there is a place for explicit sexual material in films, then stop reading right now because you cannot give Shame a fair chance.

It took me quite awhile to get around to seeing Steve McQueen’s 2011 film, which played Triad theaters briefly last winter when the demands of the semester kept me from catching it.

My loss then is a gift now.

There is one person who, more than anyone else I know, is simpatico with me about movies.  He is also judicious enough not to tell me too much about any given film until we have both seen it.

Last winter he reported that Shame is a very good film, with celebrated performances by Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan (playing siblings), that nothing in the film is gratuitous and, in fact, that there is a certain economy in the filmmaking that is counterintuitive to most viewers who will get caught up in the content without fully considering the context.

Yes, yes, and yes.

Shame is among the best films I’ve seen in recent years.  McQueen’s film is brilliantly conceptualized and lovingly rendered with a spare script that unfolds and builds to an incisive revelation about the two main characters, a brother and sister who each seem doomed to replay over and over the tragedy of what must have been a horrific childhood.

Yet, despite the graphic imagery of Brandon’s sexual dysfunction – especially his face revealing that sexual release offers no pleasure for this haunted, broken man – and the evidence of his sister Sissy’s own manifestations of self-destruction, the film is surprisingly subtle and well-crafted.

Every visual choice and juxtaposition seems just about right.  The spare script is stark but ultimately searing in a way that is hard to shake.  A couple of lines uttered by Sissy as she sits by Brandon on the sofa with the camera behind them fills in as much context as viewers get or need:  “We are not bad people.  We just come from a bad place.”

Indeed.

It is a bad place the siblings carry around inside and cannot escape.  The three times in the film Brandon is overcome by emotion devastate him, and I think those moments are crucial to making this a film I cannot get out of my mind.

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