Friday, May 10, 2013

"Shame" (2011) - Movie Review

The internal struggle in a human mind especially of men when provided with the director who precisely knows what he is handling dissects through an actor who precisely knows what he is being handed achieves excellence. Martin Scorsese knew when he handled Robert De Niro in “Taxi Driver”, Abel Ferrera knew when he handled Harvey Keitel in “Bad Lieutenant” and Werner Herzog knew when he handled Nicolas Cage in “Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call - New Orleans”. Steve McQueen did it with Michael Fassbender in “Hunger” and he repeats it with the same actor in “Shame”, a character study that provides sadness as a state of mind.

Brandon Sullivan is the handsomest New Yorker any woman would not hesitate to smile and fall in his laps. His problem is the inability to connect with them. For a relationship to achieve its completeness, it cross overs the physicality and survives it and with Brandon that part is tainted with guilt. Not that any of us are spared of guilt when it comes to sex but Brandon’s goes beyond the moral guilt the norm of society has confined in open secrecy. Brandon is a sex addict.

How do you embrace a character like this? Michael Fassbender embodies this person with bare hands and wears the skin of this beautiful entity filled with regrets and melancholy. He is groomed not because he grooms himself but he is the kind of person who gets out of shower with sharp clothes, clean shaven and hair combed to perfection. Yet within that devastating confidence is the underlying sorrow and most importantly a shy man. He has made a place and status for himself in a company. He closes deals and is a regular compadre for his boss David (James Badge Dale). David tries too hard with woman because he knows it works on many. Brandon simply stands and notices. Beyond his natural charm and enigma, he appears to communicate what he can do to satisfy a woman sans words. It is a natural phenomenon to see him get a girl his boss tries to sleep.

Brandon is the man’s man which means all the men would beg to have his ease in getting women to bed. As much as he can woo a woman effortlessly, his needs or his addiction do not wait for the mating rituals. He pays for sex when he can and rest of the time he numbingly watches his laptop with moaning sounds. He masturbates in the middle of day in his office rest room. He is trapped and though it is hard for us men to get that, “Shame” is every bit painful and saddening of this man going through that motion of not being able to get a hold of things.

In this comes his sister Sissy (Carey Mulligan). The chemistry both of this have speaks beyond words and emotions. It draws the history amongst these two which are nothing  but scars of painful memories. Sissy has a different kind of trouble. If Brandon is unable to find a simple connection with the opposite sex, Sissy is sucker for falling for every man she sleeps with. These two have an unspeakable past that are carried and performed with angst, love and tearing emotion by Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan.

Brandon desperately tries to make a reach with his colleague Marianne (Nicole Beharie). They go on a date and the differences are imminent but the chemistry is evident. They have genuine conversation and he leaves the night without even kissing her but desiring for a second date. The very next day he tries to combine his addiction with connection.

Along with performances that are pure artistic excellence, Steve McQueen’s presentation is daringly beautiful. His first shot of Fassbender lying naked covered precisely his private parts might fool its audience only to be immediately presented the nature of material we will be dealt with. He treats nudity and sex as an essential part of the presentation wherein it carries a purpose in conveying the psychological and physiological presence a character or the scene has to say. In “Hunger”, he made art with feces on the wall in the most horrific prison and treated the material with a blunt honesty that can rip your skin apart. He brings the same to the polished and shiny city of New York. The glass windows showing copulation in open air as Brandon walks through wondering whether his actions can be looked less guilty. Or the gorgeous fellow passenger in a train that crosses her leg in such a way and smiles in a particularly suggestive fashion. McQueen sees the unseen and brings that out naked to our eyes.

McQueen fills the screen with shots that resonates mood of prolonging sadness and overflowing emotions. The jazz song by Mulligan’s Sissy is one such that echoes deep level of human psyche in the way she sings and the reaction she gets from Brandon. Before I began watching “Shame”, I had a predisposition that McQueen is going to treat sex as clinically as possible which he does but near the end when Brandon plunges into continuous orgy, he presents a person painfully satiating the inner itch and engulf himself in abysmal melancholy which is beyond something I would have ever expected. “Shame” takes the fundamental instinct of human emotion and makes us see it as an addiction which is hard to do wherein all men think is sex. He does that with a man who appears to have everything he needs but the emptiness he is left with every step of his action to quench his inner thirst is frighteningly awful.

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