This Week at the Avon: Shame

There is no shame in having sex, watching porn, and masturbating. Watch out, Department of Gender Studies: Shame, directed by Steve McQueen, is challenging these assumptions. Shame, written by McQueen and Abi Morgan, is an unconventional film that tells the story of the sex-addicted Brandon Sullivan (Michael Fassbender). The film questions the value of emotionless sex and considers where the line between addiction and preference should be drawn.

This is the second joint project of Fassbender, McQueen, and cinematographer Sean Bobbitt. Their first film, Hungeris equally worth watching. McQueen’s films are more art than anything else — he takes uncomfortable subject matter and displays it in such a beautiful and composed manner that the audience questions the assumed negativity of the film’s content. Cinematographer Bobbitt helps McQueen to achieve this end: Shame is visually stunning. Bobbitt keeps the film in a constant white and blue color palette that expertly contrasts with the emotional ending scenes of the film. McQueen was originally a film installation artist, and his films constantly push the boundaries of traditional film narrative.

Fassbender may be the greatest actor to enter the game in the past few years. He was nominated for a Golden Globe for his performance, and it is a shame that Shame didn’t make it onto the Oscar radar. The audience can feel the awkward sexual tension between Brandon and his sister Sissy (Carey Mulligan); we cringe at their relationship yet we’re simultaneously utterly captivated by it. Mulligan and Fassbender are breathtaking in their portrayal of two screwed-up siblings who don’t know how to help each other. Similar to Hunger, Shame has a long single-shot scene between two people that unpacks the emotional depth of the film: this moment between Mulligan and Fassbender is clearly the acting height of Shame.

Rated N-17, this film definitely earns its censorship. This film has more nudity than Sex Power God. As George Clooney said at the 2012 Golden Globes, “Really Michael [Fassbender], honestly, you can play golf like this with your hands behind your back.” A whole lot of nipples and sex. HEY, why not go see Shame as a celebration of Sex Week… or as a celebration of what not to let your Sex Week become!

Downsides of the film: It isn’t the most comfortable thing to watch in a large theater, and you may leave the film questioning your own flaws. Plus, you have to listen to Mulligan sing for a few minutes… she’s no Whitney Houston.

I can’t promise that you will leave the movie happy, but you will be deeply moved. The run ends Thursday. Go see it! Shows daily at 4:10, 6:30, and 8:40!

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