Tuesday, December 13, 2011
"Shame"...sexual depravity in occupied New York City! Michael Fassbinder mesmermizing!
Steve McQueen's latest directorial endeavor - rated NC 17 - hovers on a borderline between high brow art and hard-core porn.
And, therein lies the dilemma.
At the risk of promoting smut, should critics grant such a production audience, or turn away in disgust and ignore the offering in spite of the merits?
On occasions such as these, I tend to stand back and allow the sensational images to wash over me first, before jumping into the fray.
I may even be inclined to "look back" to the past for historical reference - and ultimately - relevant guidance.
Of course, "Caligula" sprang to mind, immediately.
The Bob Guccione (Penthouse) feature - which starred a roster of high-profile actors (Sir John Gielgud included) caused quite an uproar when it first splashed to life in screening rooms in all its whory glory around the country years ago.
Indeed - both film buffs and Religious leaders - were shocked and outraged by the sick sexual perversions which continually splayed out across the silver screen non-stop throughout the course of the run (which included revolting acts of bestiality mixed in with violence).
In Vancouver, where I was residing at the time, protesters took to the streets to picket the movie theatre - at which point - ticket sales went through the roof.
The filmmaker's defense?
The controversial scenes were essential to the establish the debauchery which - in part - triggered the fall of the great Roman Empire.
But, some accused the porn King of exalting the decadent society, for big bucks returns at the box office.
By comparison, "Shame" is pretty tame.
Granted, there are moments of depravity that degrade the human spirit.
Here, though, there is no calculated exploitation in my estimation.
Essentially, the two-hour feature is a sorry tale about a sex addict (Michael Fassbinder) coming to grips with his inner demons.
If the film has a shortcoming as a work of art, it is in its failure to fathom what makes the lead character "Brandon" - and his sister (a role portrayed by Carrie Mulligan in a stand-out stellar performance) - tick.
A handful of gut-wrenching - soul-baring celluloid scenes - does not a masterpiece make!
For the easily seduced, "Shame" entertains enough, is up to snuff.
For some, the titillating sight of Fassbinder's big-swinging-dick will be worth the price of admission alone.
As Barnum once said:
"There's a sucker born every minute"
2 1/2 stars!