"It's funny how the colors of the real world only seem really real when you viddy them on the screen."

Friday, December 23, 2011

An Anti-Censorship Theme: Shortbus and Not Yet Rated

I'm a big fan of Hedwig and the Angry Inch, so my review of Shortbus is strongly biased, but I just loved it. That's about all I really have to say, but I'll drag it out to fill the space. It's starts with a woman, Sofia, having crazy wild sex with her husband. It turns out she's a sex therapist, so that seems to make sense. Actually it starts with a guy in a bathtub who needs couples' counselling, and he and his partner end up at Sofia's practice. But as she's helping this young couple, who are considering having an open relationship, it becomes clear that the therapist has never had an orgasm. This premise I find a bit questionable, but theorize that it's like all the people with emotional problems who end up getting psych degrees. The problem leads them to the interest in the subject, but the study of the subject doesn't necessarily solve the problem. Ya, I have psych degree. Shut-up.

The movie has us watching the evolution of Sofia and this couple and a variety of other assorted characters that pop up here and there. It made me all teary at the end. I loved the movie because I really loved some of the characters. Sofia was actually my least favourite, and I wished she was more of a minor player, except in her scenes with Severin who I want to hug forever. I want to go to the bar they all hang out in ... just to talk.

But what everyone's talking about is the fact that throughout the movie all the sex scenes are real. And the opening masturbating scene is quite an eye-full, so to speak. There are lots and lots of naked penises which we normally never see in a mainstream film.

The film's definitely not pornography, if that's what you're after. The sex scenes are about the characters getting off, not the audience. They were startlingly un-erotic, very real, and comical at times like real-life sex can be. I appreciated that by the end, the sex scenes were almost common place, just another important part of our lives.

But it made me think about Tom Cruise and JLo and other actors that tend to hook up with their co-stars from each film they make. I think our attitudes often follow our behaviours and not the other way around. I don't think we decide how we feel, then behave accordingly, but instead we typically behave a certain way, register it, and rationalize our attitudes after-the-fact (whether we want to believe it or not). We like to think we're rational and carefully deciding our course of actions, but we're really led by our guts or instincts or sentiment (as Hume would have it), and then convince ourselves we intended it all along.

Anyway, I've often thought about actors pretending to fall in love, kissing and simulating sex, saying incredibly written lines to one another time and again for weeks. Surely many actors are convinced of their feelings after playing the part with someone they have a bit of chemistry with. I mean, I sometimes develop a bond with someone at work after finishing a difficult project together. If kissing were involved, I'd likely be rotating partners with each project too.

But the people in Shortbus are actually having sex with each other. And, unlike many pornos, their lines are about developing close emotional bonds. Does that lead to more likelihood of hooking up or less? Does one keep more emotional distance the closer the pretend intimacy is, or is everything vested in the scene, guts and all? The film used several actors who were already in a relationship (James and Jamie), so that reduces the dilemma. But it makes me think.

As for This Film Is Not Yet Rated, it has great potential. It's a very informative doc about the film rating system that moves through the process of understanding the sneaky underhanded system for what it is. It builds up nicely with the filmmaker hiring a private investigator (who gives a beautiful speech during their stake-out), but the climax falls flat. Here's the big ending:


he finds out the names of the people on the rating board. It's a big secret, see, but he found those names. I needed something bigger after all the build-up. What a let down. But even though it just seemed to stop, there were still some very worthwhile memorable bits in the during part. Kimberly Peirce (Boys Don't Cry) and Atom Egoyan really stood out for me. I'd recommend it for a rainy day with nothing else to do - unless you're a film buff. Then it's a must-see for educational purposes.

I also watched Crank. Don't make the same mistake. Just because Jason Statham was in Lock, Stock... and Snatch doesn't mean this isn't shite.

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