Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Getting On And Off...


Directed by John Cameron Mitchell(2006)

"Sex, like music, is a universal language. We want to use it to introduce character, evoke emotion, propel the plot. Sex is also the funniest thing I know. How the hell do we find ourselves in those positions?" - MitchellSurprising, is the best word to describe "Shortbus", part romantic comedy, part sex and relationship drama, and part porn. All the sex is real (not simulated), but each scene (they don't all contain sex), no matter how graphic (explicit gay, lesbian, bi, and straight), they all have "surprising" emotional variety and content, and do push forth both our understandings of the characters and the story itself, and for a film about being "comfortable' with your own sexuality, it might be considered almost a cheat to fake or go timid, when it came to portraying the subject itself. James Cameron Mithcell has improved as a writer here as well, the kitsch of "Hedwig and the Angry Inch" has been replaced with a greater eye and care for human relationships and development.
"New York is the place people come to be forgiven", says an 80 year old man, in the fantastical downtown New York sex club "The Short Bus". It is here we are inrtoduced to an ensemble of characters from a miserable hipster dominatrix, to a sex therapist whose never orgasmed, to an emotionally distant gay couple considering bringing a third party into the relationship.
Short from John Cameron Mitchell suggesting we all start going to mysterious improbably eccentric sex clubs and re-start the free love revolution one used condom at a time, I think "Shortbus" is a film about negotiating your own sexual politics, there contradictions and insistences.
"New York is where people come to be forgiven" and if this is to be taken as anything other a greeting card platitude, perhaps it suggests that kind of "reconstruction", in sexual terms, for the post 9/11 generation, "9/11 was the only real thing that's ever happened to most of [them]"(young people and those who came to the city after the attacks), is another line, from the same 80 year old man in the club. So were all confused frieghtened, paranoid, tense, and alone in the dark (a literal city wide power outage in the films finale), and Mitchell's solution, and it's as elegant one as Ive ever heard, which is to do what humans have always done under cover of darkness...and to use the anonymity to explore new possibilites in honesty, intimacy, and pysicality, of course. Very, very graphic, but emotionally complex, funny, smart, great music, one of the most uncomfortable opening scenes I have ever sat through, and one of the most "feel-good" endings I can remember, great musical performances as well. "Hedwig And The Angry Inch" kinda revitalized "Queer Cinema", as Ive heard the term thrown about, and maybe pushed it a little closer to acceptability with it's campiness, fun musical numbers, and wit, this because of it's genre not just "gay" but "pornographic", which almost cost lead actress "Sook Yin-Lee" her job at Canadian Public Television, will ensure this movie remains marginal. Theres allot of sex, sure but it doesn't really evoke arousal, as often as it does comedy, sadness, release, and despair. Obviously not for everyone, but if you give it a shot, and maybe step outside your comfort zone, you might be "surprised". I went with my current girlfriend, to see this on our first date!

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