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Shame

2012-05-11 12:15
 
What it's about:

Brandon (played by Michael Fassbender) is a handsome and successful New Yorker whose days are governed by his rampant sex addiction. His seemingly functional and solitary descent into self-destruction is interrupted when his wayward younger sister Sissy (Carey Mulligan) worms her way back into his life.

What we thought:

By now you’ve very likely come to know a little more about Shame than what the sparse but alluring trailer has to offer. Ever since the Venice Film Festival last year, all the talk around this movie has been about the looming presence of Michael Fassbender's penis.

It makes an appearance early on in the film, and while it’s certainly something that will shake some viewers, it’s not the most sensational part of writer-director Steve McQueen’s dark and probing character study. That so much has been made about it – both in criticism and in jest – is perhaps indicative of how rare male full frontal nudity is in modern cinema. Or perhaps Fassbender’s Fassmember is just that impressive.

Still, the nudity and the long and unflinching scenes of Brandon’s many anonymous encounters, don’t leave nearly as enduring an impression as the conflicted man that is Brandon himself. Physically strong and attractive he still cuts a miserable figure, with a weariness about his shoulders and a vacant look in eyes that is symptomatic of substance abusers and addicts of all shades.

His insatiable sex drive leaves him impotent in every other aspect of his life. He can’t connect with the one woman he might have actual feelings for and roams the streets of New York like an alluring predator, looking to score.

The story goes to a new level of darkness when Brandon’s sister makes an appearance and her mere presence threatens to send him over the edge. Their relationship is fraught with the kind of tension that can only exist between siblings – but so much of what pains them both remains a mystery, hinting at a past tragedy or trauma that has left them both broken.

Since Shame is so thinly written, it relies on its performances the way a movie like anything else on circuit right now does not. And it’s the actors who earn this film its fourth star.

Fassbender has been steadily revealing his powers with every role, slipping in and out of blockbusters (playing Magneto in X-Men: First Class, the upcoming Prometheus) and indie fare like Fish Tank and Jane Eyre with an enviable ease. It’s clear that McQueen brings out the best in him, after directing him to his best role yet as IRA member Bobby Sands in the equally challenging hunger strike real-life drama Hunger in 2008.

Carey Mulligan is perhaps the biggest surprise as she matches her co-star with a nakedly raw performance that is almost painful to watch. When Brandon bursts into tears as he watches his sister perform a chilling rendition of New York, New York at a jazz lounge it feels like a natural reaction, even though, like much else in Shame - and the experience of shame itself - it’s a telling moment that left to seep in without any further explanation.

Shame is art cinema at its most provocative – an absorbing and intense exercise in control that exhibits the best of McQueen’s talents and his superlative cast.

Not to put too fine a point on it, Shame is not for the fainthearted, with graphic scenes of sexual content and a depth of melancholy that viewers should prepare to carry around with them for a long time after.


Michael Fassbender's naked form may be grabbing all the headlines, but it's the stunning performances that elevates Shame to art cinema at its most provocative.

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Add Your Review

(Comments may be edited or deleted at the Channel24 editors’ discretion)
not important 2012-05-11 10:18 AM
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Ashamed that society allows this kind of movies.
Bob 2012-05-11 11:26 AM
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@ not important - Have you seen it yet? Google 'Reaction Formation' and do a little introspection about how you may be exhibiting classic signs of this defense mechanism. Enjoy.
SS 2012-05-11 11:46 AM
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Good movie. Hard to watch at times as his character spirals out of control.The character development is brilliant. A look at one man's life and his relationships with others, no heroes here.
Bad 2012-05-11 12:27 PM
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The same effect could have been achieved without the explicit detail. This makes this movie bad. A good director/producer can work with elements without having to "pull the envelope". A director such as Steven Spielberg for eg can do this.
EbbieA 2012-05-13 04:06 PM
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@Bad...while I love Stephen Spielberg, he cannot do this. Spielberg did a good job of Schindler's List, but most of his more dramatic works suck and he has certainly never tackled anything as dark as the material in shame. For the type of film that it is, shame was engrossing if hard to watch at times, but it never felt long as so many art films sometimes do.
Moonbeam 2012-05-13 06:13 PM
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This was absolutely brilliant. Went to watch it at the V&A Waterfront on Friday and didn't want it to end. Very difficult movie to watch in places. Fassbender is mesmerizing. He portrays his pain and despair brilliantly. I am really getting to like him as an actor.
preshen govender 2012-05-14 08:25 AM
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will it be in 3d
Sean 2012-05-14 09:27 AM
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What was the movie actually about? Lots of sex scenes and no storyline. I expected a revelation at the end and even that I didn't get. Very disappointed.
Cindy 2012-05-14 12:59 PM
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Disappointing. The producers did shock although one has be think further than that. Where is this leading to. The movie justiefies people with unhealthy lifestyles. It is definately not right to force the viewer to choose the side the sick! 0 out of 5
Keith 2012-05-14 02:37 PM
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Excrutiating in its reality. The nudity is worn like costumes. Brilliant acting by whole cast, particularly Fassbender.
WorldGirl 2012-05-14 03:32 PM
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Didn't like the movie.
Tang 2012-05-14 03:34 PM
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Neither did I!
Luke 2012-05-15 07:23 PM
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Woman are impressed by the sight of a penis. Lately you see it in almost all movies. I personally have never seen a vagina, it is always covered by a bush. Is that fair?
Man 2012-05-16 07:46 AM
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I agree with you Luke. The movie Showgirls was given an NC17 rating in the US, making it impossible to show in theatres. And that movie did not even show a vagina. I think it is time women show off more detail upclose as well.
wtf 2012-05-16 09:43 AM
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wtf
Big B 2012-05-17 01:42 PM
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Guys you clearly do not have girlfriends or a wife!! WTF get a life if you want to see it up close then get an X rated movie dont go to a normal movie and expect to see it!!...
Japetto 2012-05-28 03:00 AM
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Life has no revelation (at least objectively speaking) and since this film is portraying real life tragedy it's appropriated.
Kelly 2012-05-29 02:39 PM
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Moving, poignant and disturbing.
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