- Vinyl (1965)
- Seconds (1966)
- Rosemary's Baby (1968)
- A Hollywood Invasion of Casino Halls
- Thin Man, The (1934)
- In The Heat of the Night (1967)
- All In: The Poker Movie, Player’s Best Tricks
- Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)
- Lone Star (1996)
- Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (1965)
- Slacker (1991)
- Shame (2011) Or Who the Hell is Steve McQueen?
- Wicker Man, The (1973)
- Buffalo '66 (1998)
- Flaming Creatures (1963) Or Infantile Art-House Orgy
- Enter the Dragon (1973)
- I Walked With a Zombie (1943)
- Out of the Past (1947)
- Princess Bride, The (1987)
- Once (2006)
- All the President's Men (1976)
- Being John Malkovich (1999)
- In the Year of the Pig (1968)
- In The Mood For Love (2000)
- Hole, The (1960)
- Ocean’s Eleven Blu-Ray Review
- Tokyo Story (1953)
- Jurassic Park (1993)
- Gilda (1946)
- Rounders (1998)
From Art-House Obscurity To Grindhouse Schlock - With A Special Focus On '1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die'
Thursday, March 6th, 2013
As for that aforementioned club, the web-address is super simple:
Visit. Read. Join. Post.
All are welcome.
Most Recent Reviews and Commentary:
Genre: Experimental/Avant-Garde Sci-Fi
Starring: Gerard Malanga (Harlot • Hedy)
Directed By: Andy Warhol (Blowjob • Blue Movie)
Overview: Andy Warhol’s black-and-white, pretty-much single-take, pretty-much static-shot, pretty-much hour-long experimental film based on Anthony Burgess’s novel, A Clockwork Orange.
: something that is created with imagination and skill and that is beautiful or that expresses important ideas or feelings
: an occupation requiring knowledge or skill <the art of organ building>
: the conscious use of skill and creative imagination especially in the production of aesthetic objects; also : works so produced
Let it be known that I love Modern Art. When I travel to another city, the first ‘To Do’ on my list is to find the local Modern Art Museum and visit it - usually several times. Yet, thus far, not counting the creative expletives and vitriol-filled rants that my dear readers get to experience, I am finding no enjoyable reason to watch any of the non-commercial Experimental / Avant-Garde films that exist within the pages of the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die book. I’ve reviewed and disliked 1922’s La Souriante Madame Beudet, the ‘important’ Meshes of the Afternoon (1943), Kenneth Anger’s Scorpio Rising (1964) and especially Michael Snow’s Wavelength (1967) - an insightful review that I highly recommend, if I do say so myself. Today I toss on another reeking log to fuel the fire of fetid film opinion with Andy Warhol’s Vinyl.
Much like the source material, the story of Vinyl is that of a young, music-loving, society-reviling thug who violently crosses the criminal line, gets arrested, and signs up for a re-education program that punishes him back to goodness with a twist of irony. For those of you who’ve not read Burgess’s novel or seen Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange, I recommend it before venturing into the near-nonsense that is Vinyl. Bolstered by context, Vinyl should become more palatable to its viewers.
That being said, unless I had known ahead of time that Vinyl was an interpretation of Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange, I still wouldn’t have guessed as much until at least half-way through the 63 minute run time. Even then, I’m not sure if I ever could have made the connection. The reasons are plentiful. Partly it’s because of a frequent lack of narrative, but mainly it’s because the only setting in the six-foot wide mise-en-scène is a chair on the left, and a steamer trunk on the right, complete with a woman (Edie Sedgwick) silently sitting on it while chain-smoking. When our anti-hero Victor (Gerard Malanga) picks a fight, it’s six inches from the chair he’s arrested in front of and forced to sit in for his medically supervised re-education. Vinyl forces us to imagine most of the action. I’ll dare admit that this visual confusion is much the point of Vinyl, so I won’t dump on this aspect. There’s so much more to make this unwatchable…
The first problem with Vinyl isn’t the subject matter, it's the pacing. We open on the face of Victor who then, for the next three minutes and 20 seconds, pumps iron. Later when he dances - horribly - to Martha and the Vandellas’ “Nowhere to Run”, it’s for longer than the entire 2 minute and 48 second length of the song - because it's REPEATED. Then there’s the re-education scene where Victor is made to describe the horrible scenes he’s being subjected to. This scene is extended far beyond exhausting… but at least it’s one of the few parts of Vinyl where our actors are actually telling a story.
The monotonous pacing will tax most viewers, but it won’t infuriate them – leave that to the acting and direction. Gerard Malanga’s performance is beyond subpar, and it’s perfectly in line with his supporting ‘cast’. Worse, the atrocious performances are an unrelenting, omnipresent constant throughout Vinyl. There’s a scene early on where the characters are tearing books apart. It’s painfully obvious that they are reading their lines out of the pages they’re ripping out, too lazy to have learned any lines. Later, the cop who's yelling at Victor keeps looking offscreen, stumbling over dialogue, even outright stopping to look up and read his lines off what I imagine is a cue card. Then, when the doctor makes his entrance, his eyes are constantly offscreen searching for instruction, unless he’s drinking his can of beer between lines. Even Gerard can be seen looking back and making a quiet comment to someone who’s not part of the action. This atrocious and infantile acting goes so far beyond post-modern, so far beyond the 'honest amateur' of the New Wave that it’s insulting. I know how people act when they are live, when they are capable. Andy Warhol’s Vinyl is nothing more than the horrible display of a bunch of drooling idiots pretending in front of the camera because they were bored for an hour.
Instead of seeing ‘film’, I see Andy Warhol’s farce, a joke on all of us that he called art, a series of frames captured on film with a bunch of stoned, drunk buffoons exporting ad-libbed laziness to make a name for themselves. Gerard repeating the words 'scum baby' 20 times in 10 minutes does not make me think I'm watching something avant-garde. It makes me want to punch him in the face.
The problem with Vinyl isn't even Vinyl. It's that some critic - I'm looking at you Marc Sigel - for the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die book thought that it was important for me to see this. Marc, how dare you call Vinyl ‘fascinating’, ‘sexy’, ‘brilliant’ and ‘dynamic’. Vinyl is none of those things. Clearly you’re in on the joke and belly-laughing at keeping this vapid tripe immortalized in celluloid. If this film was 30 minutes shorter it would be just as effective at being an idiotic mess and you, dear reader, would not be getting such a long rambling rant about tedious minutiae.
I thought that going into Vinyl having read Anthony Burgess's A Clockwork Orange would help provide the context others lacked. I thought that being a fan of Stanley Kubrick's 1971 film - and having seen it 11 times - I would be appreciative of Andy Warhol's efforts. But in Vinyl there is no effort, there is no class, and there is definitely no art whatsoever. It’s an unrehearsed, ad-libbed, lazy attempt at nothing, and for this I had to suffer. Andy Warhol’s Vinyl is more than a waste of time, it’s a stain on the endeavours of artists who try. Shame on you, Andy. You’re poisoning the well.
Performance: 2 Cinematography: 4 Script: 3 Plot: 4 Mood: 3
Overall Rating: 32% (Keep It Off The Record)
The only reason I didn’t give Performance a rating of 1 is because it’s an experimental film so I gave it some benefit of the doubt.
The problem with Experimental film in general - when a problem exists - is how lazy their filmmakers are. If people enjoyed the craft of experimental filmmaking, they would learn and practice that craft. They would learn to make enjoyable films, or at least films that were different and interesting, thematically or technically. They wouldn't squeeze out and pinch off some shite they made when they were drunk and high and bored.
Thanks be to the names we can look to for respite, names like David Lynch, like Philip Glass, even Man Ray if that’s your thing.
Stick to Andy’s pop art paintings. At least with those he doesn’t pretend what he’s doing isn’t for straight cash.
Want to see moronic art that captivated me completely? Here. Enjoy this. At least it's laughable. And it's only 6 minutes.
Genre: Mystery Thriller Drama
Starring: Rock Hudson (All That Heaven Allows • “McMillan & Wife”), John Randolph (Serpico • Prizzi's Honor)
Directed By: John Frankenheimer (The Manchurian Candidate • Birdman of Alcatraz)
Overview: When a man receives mysterious messages, he uncovers a plot that aims to fake his death and give him the life he always wanted… not that he has much of a choice.
Seconds opens with a chilling credit sequence that easily puts us into the Thriller mode. As opening credit sequences go, it’s one of the more memorable. With titles by the only name in titles, Saul Bass, combined with a haunting score and simple yet deliciously off-putting visuals, the mood is firmly planted by the time we watch the Noir-inspired first scene.
Seconds is a wonderful and thrilling Mystery, and as such, you may benefit from not reading my next ‘spoiler-free’ introductory plot paragraph that follows. I went into Seconds knowing nothing about it, and I found I rather enjoyed being as lost as our reluctant protagonist when experiencing the events that transpire.
Arthur Hamilton (John Randolph) is a regular guy with a regular life and a regular wife. Frankly, there’s a bit of ennui in his everyday until he begins to experience some strange happenings. A stranger slips a piece of paper into his palm while he boards a train, he speaks on the phone with someone claiming to be an old friend who’s been dead for years. And, once he becomes too curious at the mystery he’s involved in to walk away, Arthur is invited to meet his long-passed friend to learn more. He embarks on a cloak-and-dagger scavenger hunt filled with double-cross and strange dream sequences. When he awakens, Arthur finds himself the ‘guest’ of a secret company that offers him a new life. With the stick of blackmail and the carrot of the life he always wanted, he is asked to literally sign his life away in exchange for life insurance benefits. Without much of a choice, Arthur Hamilton reconstructs his life - including his face with dramatic plastic surgery - to become Tony Wilson (Rock Hudson), a modern art painter.
From here the mystery goes on enticingly, leaving us in the same place our character is: unknown, uncertain, unsettled. And, through it all, Seconds delivers its tale with cinematography that is breathtaking by James Wong Howe (Yankee Doodle Dandy • Sweet Smell of Success), vast sets and masterful editing of several memorable montages. Seconds makes frequent use of a steady cam focused on the face of a character as he walks, illustrating their surreal side, their drunken side, their fear-filled side. There’s fantastical dream sequences that tips an exaggerated hat to the expressionist style reminiscent of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. The scene where Arthur undergoes plastic surgery is wonderfully extended, elaborate and detailed. Another scene celebrates skin in an orgiastic party where people strip nude and make wine the old Roman way. And, best of all, the scenes take their time in unfolding, leaving us satisfied or uneasy without ever seeming rushed.
I can’t decide if it’s the visuals or the plot that is the most impressive aspect of Seconds. The story is exceptionally intelligent, even downright literary in its telling. It’s original, the mystery is tense and the thrills are constant. Seconds has that head-shaking “don’t go in there!” predictability to give you that ‘you-shoulda-known-better’ feeling. But at the same time there so many deep twists and surprising turns that Seconds will keep your mind reeling and guessing to the very end.
What a wonderful predicament to be in - having to decide if you prefer the cinematography or the story and being pulled in both directions. Either way, I definitely invite you to decide for yourself.
Performance: 9 Cinematography: 9 Script: 8 Plot: 9 Mood: 8
Overall Rating: 84% (You'll Keep Coming Back For More)
It’s no wonder this film is in the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die book. It’s another one of the beautiful surprises that came to me thanks to the tome that has helped educate me in all things cinema. It’s also the first time I’ve seen an entire film starring Rock Hudson, and I must say, what a marvelous role he plays in Seconds.
She's really not that big a woman.
Genre: Horror Mystery Thriller Drama
Starring: Mia Farrow (Hannah and Her Sisters • The Omen), John Cassavetes (The Killers • The Dirty Dozen)
Overview: Soon after Rosemary and Guy Woodhouse move into an apartment complex, they find themselves surrounded by mysterious afflictions, odd neighbours and strange happenings - so much so that Rosemary begins to fear for her unborn child.
Rosemary’s Baby is a solid choice for ‘important’ Horror, but don’t expect a typical gore fest or a nail-biting, suspense-filled chill-ride. This intelligent film is more about planting us firmly in this world and less about taking us to a fantastical one where our disbelief can be suspended on a noose off the barn rafter. Perhaps that’s why Rosemary’s Baby stood the test of time and remained a Classic – perhaps that’s the hook that makes it so frightening.
Guy Woodhouse (John Cassavetes) is an actor, (hopefully) moving up in the world. He and his wife Rosemary (the quiet and slender pixie-haired Mia Farrow) move into a beautiful, spacious and charming New York City apartment. Minnie and Roman Castevet (played by Ruth Gordon and Sidney Blackmer), the old couple across the hall, are eccentric but friendly folks who quickly make friends with them. The Woodhouse’s plan is to have three children, and if all goes well, eventually move to Hollywood. Unfortunately, Guy doesn’t make the cut for some important theatrical roles and Rosemary starts feeling neglected. Meanwhile, the apartment complex is shrouded in strange and dark stories, and one of the tenants dies mysteriously. Soon after, the Woodhouse’s luck changes, and Guy is give an important part in a play after the original lead had gone blind. Better still, Rosemary is happy to hear she is pregnant, though the strange dream she had on the evening of the conception and the painful illness that follows makes her suspect that something is amiss – to the point of making her fear for her child.
See, fear like that.
I’ll stop there. The most unfortunate thing about Rosemary’s Baby is that its plot, or rather its mysterious hook, is as well known to people who haven’t seen it as Soylent Green. It’s one of those movies that people describe by using the dramatic hook and mysterious climax. Luckily IMDb’s overview is vague, but for those of you who haven’t actually seen it and fear spoilers, don’t go digging around too far.
Ruth Gordon (Harold and Maude) won the Academy award for best supporting actress for her role as the eccentric and nosy friend and neighbour. I agree that her performance is one of the better reasons to watch, but above all, Rosemary’s Baby should pride itself in its captivating atmosphere. The setting is this real world, the characters are real people, quirky as they may be, and the madness inherent in Polanski’s New York is, ironically, reflected most of all by our everywoman heroine. The first character we are introduced to is the building that Guy and Rosemary move into, and throughout the film, the building itself, the apartment, the manual passenger elevator, the mysterious closet – all atmospheric. Polanski does a wonderful job of giving a breathing pulse to the building itself, reminding us of an attention to detail in his setting and dream sequences as vivid and memorable as his best scenes in Repulsion.
Ah, before everything went to Hell...
Performance: 8 Cinematography: 8 Script: 7 Plot: 7 Mood: 9
Overall Rating: 78% (Not A Laborious Effort)
Sure I may have boasted a little about how ‘frightening’ Rosemary’s Baby was, but I didn’t find it that scary. I’d much more easily classify this a Mystery Thriller before calling it a Horror. Even though it has a gruesome shot here and there, I dare say that those felt out of place in comparison with the overall mood and narrative. I love a good gore-show, so I won’t complain, but people who can’t really enjoy mangled bodies might just recall some gratuitous seconds they could have done without.
Genre: Mystery Comedy Crime Romance
Starring: William Powell (How to Marry a Millionaire • The Great Ziegfeld), Myrna Loy (Love Crazy • Airport 1975)
Directed By: W.S. Van Dyke (After The Thin Man • Another Thin Man)
Overview: Nick and Nora Charles, a retired private detective and his curious wife, are thrust into a murder mystery involving an inventor, his money-hungry ex-wife and a score of suspects both familial and strange.
Whenever I lean in to sample another early 30s 'Must See' of my self-imposed film studies, I do it with a big fat grain of salt. My two readers will tell you that I am a firm hater of this era. With few exceptions, the early 30s have some major talkies growing pains and it's absolutely no excuse for quality. Chaplin was doing silents well into the talkies era and for that I'm thankful. While I began to watch The Thin Man, a series so successful it produced 5 more films, I realized that by 1934, Hollywood at least, has 'nailed it down', technically. I realized with a sigh of relief that The Thin Man had sold me quite quickly. With the grace and charm of Myrna Loy, the comedic timing and pantomime of William Powell while still having a storyline serious enough to sink your teeth into, the only thing you'd be missing from this Mystery Comedy Drama would be an adorable little terrier who helps advance the plot... and wouldn't you know it, they even thought of that.
The most endearing trait of Nick Charles, our hero, is not his debonair style, it's not his Devil-may-care bravery and approach to crime fighting, it's his drinking. He could give George and Martha's liquor cabinet a go without stumbling. His rich socialite wife is clearly a woman so bored that having guns pointed at her is preferable to yet another dinner party, and the cast of characters are often presented in a very strange and original style. Most notable is Morelli, played by Edward Brophy who, before Nick even considers taking the case, breaks into the Charles' home and, at gunpoint, profusely explains how he couldn't be the killer.
Performance: 9 Cinematography: 8 Script: 7 Plot: 8 Mood: 8
Overall Rating: 80% (Actually, Quite Meaty)
All told, The Thin Man is certainly a worthy film, and brilliantly acted rich with characters you want to explore. What's more, the ever popular climactic cliché of assembling guests at a dinner party and walking through the details of the case to uncover the murderer? Well The Thin Man may not have started the trend, but I can't think of a film that did it sooner.
Poitier does it again.
Genre: Drama Crime Mystery
Starring: Sidney Poitier (The Defiant Ones • Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner), Rod Steiger (On the Waterfront • Doctor Zhivago)
Directed By: Norman Jewison (Fiddler on the Roof • Moonstruck)
Overview: When a man is found dead in the small-town streets of Sparta, Mississippi, a black man is picked up as a suspect. Turns out that black man is a homicide detective up North. When the sheriff asks him to stay and help the investigation, the race relations of the Deep South make things more than a little difficult.
Harvey [To Tibbs]: What you doin' wearin' white man's clothes?
In the small Deep South town of Sparta, Mississippi, a policeman (the weird-to-see-as-a-corn-fed-redneck-cop Warren Oates) finds the murdered body of a rich industrialist. When he scours the streets for a suspect, he finds a black man (Sidney Poitier) waiting for a train and arrests him on sight. Police chief Gillespie (the seasoned and impressive Rod Steiger) is quickly embarrassed when he finds out that the black man, Virgil Tibbs, is not only a policeman from Philadelphia, but a homicide specialist. After a quick call to Tibbs’ police chief, it’s suggested that Tibbs stick around and help solve the Mississippi murder. Reluctantly, Mr. Tibbs agrees and the investigation begins. But with the town of Sparta rich with a deep culture of racism, the night won’t be the only thing that’s heated.
Gillespie [after the arrest of Mr. Tibbs]: Whatcha hit him with?
Tibbs: Hit whom?
Gillespie: "Whom"? "Whom"? Well, you a northern boy? What's a northern boy like you doing all the way down here?
As stories go, it’s a pretty standard police whodunit complete with its cadre of suspects and red herrings, but an audience hoping to find a unique mystery in In The Heat of the Night is missing the point. The mystery is nothing more than the vehicle driving the characters to their controversial interactions.
And Rod Steiger's not so bad himself.
The most impressive thing about In The Heat of the Night is how nuanced those interactions between our main characters are. The race-tense scenes between our two policemen speaks to an honest humanity. Gillespie is a cop first and a racist second, and though his sense of justice - his desire to solve a murder – comes first, he can’t always be altruistic. To have someone who’s ‘a homicide specialist’ fall into his lap is pure luck and he’ll use that resource, even if it is a Northern boy Negro. But when emotions ramp up, Gillespie knows how to hurt Tibbs, knows how to be a proper Southern white man, knows how to put a Negro in his place. Using the N-word ain’t no problem when he needs to get his point across. And Tibbs, well he doesn’t turn the other cheek and hold fast to lofty ideals; he reacts accordingly. He reacts like an educated man living in the era of the civil rights movement. He reacts like a man who’s the best hope of solving this crime.
Gillespie [as Tibbs prepares to abandon the town]: I'm tellin' you that you're gonna stay. You'll stay here if I have to have your chief remind you what he told you to do. But I don't think I have to do that, you see? No. Because you're so damned smart. You're smarter than any white man. You're just gonna stay here and show us all. You could never live with yourself unless you could put us all to shame. You wanna know something, Virgil? I don't think that you could let an opportunity like that pass by.
Stirling Silliphant’s brilliant screenplay based on John Ball’s novel and how it’s delivered by Sidney Poitier and Rod Steiger is the undeniable strength of In The Heat of the Night.
Performance: 9 Cinematography: 7 Script: 9 Plot: 7 Mood: 8
Overall Rating: 80% (Hot Enough)
In The Heat of the Night is one of those perfect little bell-curve films from the 1001 book that remind me to ‘get around to this one’. Sometimes it’s not about the study; sometimes it’s just about putting movies like these under your belt and building your solid repertoire of the wonderful things that are out there.
Genre: Sci-Fi Horror
Starring: Kevin McCarthy (Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1979) • UHF), Dana Wynter (Airport • Sink The Bismark)
Directed By: Don Siegel (Dirty Harry • Escape From Alcatraz)
Overview: A doctor discovers that his small town’s inhabitants are being replaced by alien creatures.
Dr. Miles J. Bennell (the still-young Kevin McCarthy) lives in small town America. The only thing that seems to put any weight at all on his mind is the return of an old flame, Becky Driscoll (Dana Wynter). As their romance rekindles, he hears strange rumours. It seems that many of the townsfolk are having the sinking feeling that the people around them aren’t quite right. Some even say they’ve been replaced. When his friend Dr. Danny Kauffman (Larry Gates) finds what looks like a life-size wax figure, they watch it to see what happens. Turns out they’re facing some kind of invasion by alien body snatchers, but the TITLE RUINED THAT FOR YOU ALREADY.
Invasion of the Body Snatchers is fun. It’s light. It’s scary but not too scary. When you see where the monsters come from for the first time, it’s impressive. The special effects are kitschy cool in that Them! way, but overall… Eesh. The characters’ motivations and the plot are so forced to create additional drama that goes beyond forcing suspension of disbelief – it goes straight to weak, bad writing.
With gaping plot holes that confuse, with logic that assumes you only know about medicine, law, and physics what small town American knew in the 50s, and with acting that occasionally raises your eyebrow from its astonishing camp, Invasion of the Body Snatchers can’t possibly escape the land of B-Grade cinema. Unlike King Kong and Shock Corridor, Invasion of the Body Snatchers doesn’t have an intelligent idea that transcends its station – there isn’t a surprisingly genius moment of cinematography that astounds us into taking it seriously; there isn’t one thing that pops and makes us say, “yes, this is important”.
The other sad thing, and I know it’s my own issue, but this is also a bookended story. It begins with a wildman coming in and telling the story of how he survived. For me, those touch upon the spoiler. There’s a large chunk of suspense cut out of a story when you know the people who will survive the ordeals they’re recounting. It’s not a big thing, but it is one more thing that I didn’t like about the ’56 Invasion of the Body Snatchers. I’d much rather recommend Them! to those interested in cautionary metaphorical tales.
Performance: 7 Cinematography: 8 Script: 5 Plot: 6 Mood: 6
Overall Rating: 64% (Not All That Captivating)
As always, I see this 1001-list film in the context of ‘why did it make the list’? Since I never read the tome’s entry until after I see the film, I couldn’t rationalize what made Invasion of the Body Snatchers so special. In fact, it was so plain-old-Wednesday-fare that I plan on watching the 1978 Donald Sutherland version as well as the 1993 Meg Tilley version just to get something out of it… to make it more of a ‘study’. Then I opened the 1001 books and read the reason it was on the list; what sets Invasion of the Body Snatchers apart is that instead of freakish and frightening monsters, the nemeses in the film are the neighbors, the people all around our paranoid characters. Today this isn’t an original concept - The Thing being one of the all-time best terrors with that theme - but thinking back to 1956, I could see this concept as relatively ground-breaking science fiction, not to mention having a strong streak of the political themes of Communism and/or anti-McCarthyism.
Starring: Michael Fassbender (Prometheus • Fish Tank), Carey Mulligan (Drive • An Education)
Directed By: Steve McQueen (Hunger • 12 Years a Slave)
Overview: The character study of a sexual addict living in New York and his relationship with his sister.
This paragraph is strictly for those who’ve seen the film, who never plan on seeing the film, or who don’t mind every hook, line and twister being ruined before they see it (you people are weird)...
Click here to skip the spoiler bit.
Shame opens with a red-haired woman on a subway, enticed by Brandon’s gaze. When she leaves, she flees, her ring finger prominently displaying the reason for her flight. Brandon chases, knowing she won’t be able to resist his temptation, but loses her. Over the next 100 minutes, we learn of Brandon’s ordeals and issues and, in the final scene, he again runs into that same red-haired woman. This time she is inviting, but Brandon is in a far different state of mind. His sister has barely survived a suicide and he knows his sexual addition - his shame - is partly responsible for her attempt. He looks up at the redhead and the film fades to credits, forever leaving us with the question of whether or not he’s grown and will refuse her, or if he will continue to be the sexual addict that we’ve learned of all this time.
To me it’s an incredibly satisfying ending, not because it asks a question we don’t quite know the answer to - a moral cliff-hanger, if you will – but because I can answer the question with absolute certainty: of course he goes to her. Naturally a man who has been brought to the brink of a chasm of anguish will take comfort in the thing he loves and understands most. Certainly a man in the throes of depression will chose instead to be in the throes of passion. Knowing that he could have this woman without a chase is not the satisfaction he seeks. Brandon does not derive pleasure from winning, he gets it from fucking, and it's unfinished business. It’s possible that this woman will provide the sex that will give Brandon his moment of clarity, will give him enough center and catharsis to work towards overcoming his addiction, but not banging a married woman in his depression is not hitting bottom; going through with it is. But all that comes after the sex with this woman is just guessing. What’s knowing is that that subway train redhead is a Godsend, the pure symbol of relief, of release and of rebirth that Brandon needs right now. Resisting that? No Sir, not Brandon - not in a million years.
Sometimes it’s hard to write a compelling Overview of a character study film, mostly because they don’t tend to have plots. As a matter of fact, I commented to my guest how much Shame felt like a tightly-plotted film because the events of the life we followed built our character so well. Those of you who are leery of potentially boring character studies need not worry with Shame, because - simply put - it’s a masterpiece.
Performance: 9 Cinematography: 9 Script: 8 Plot: 9 Mood: 10
Overall Rating: 90% (No Shame In Sharing This Masterpiece)
Steven Rodney "Steve" McQueen is the name of someone destined to have a life in Cinema. The London-born, Ansterdam-living director of Grenadian descent, his 2008 Hunger won the prize for Best First Feature film at Cannes, The Caméra d'Or. Shame has not only reminded me why I do this toiling through cinema thing yet time and again, but it’s reminded me that my study guide that is the 1001 List is good and great, especially since this would have otherwise gone under my radar. Shame has also inspired me to explore Steve McQueen’s other works, Hunger and 12 Years a Slave. I'm sure I'll not be disappointed.