I finally got around to seeing Steve McQueen’s second feature, Shame a full four days after it went on general release, which is a very long time considering how much I’ve been looking forward to it. It was only a few months ago that I managed to watch Hunger (McQueen and Fassbender’s first film together) and of course it was absolutely stunning and is most definitely one of the best British films of the last five years.
If Shame is not on my top 10 films of 2012 then we’re in for a bloody good year people. It’s striking, compelling and raw. I always like Carey Mulligan but she really is great in this, delivering an entirely vulnerable performance as Sissy. McQueen’s visual style is now defined by his steady use of long takes which he uses to great effect in this film, holding the camera still on a scene for longer than one feels comfortable and adding to the overall sense of unease and the nerve shattering quality of the film.
This may be a slightly redundant point but I’ve heard some reviews which have pointed out that this is a film about sex addiction which, crucially, doesn’t make any of the sex erotic and I do feel I must disagree with this; whilst it’s true that Fassbender’s Brandon is an extremely fucked-up, damaged character and that his addiction is ruining (or indeed has ruined) his life, it would be impossible for me to say that a sex scene involving Michael Fassbender was completely without erotic allure. He is an intense, measured and fantastic actor but also, as it has been very well noted, an absurdly attractive man.
Now I’m not saying he was miscast in the role but I do think it would’ve thrown an entirely different light on the world of this addiction had McQueen not cast an actor on whom these words have been written “Few of today’s leading men possess the carnal charisma of this Irish Method rogue” (Empire magazine-Ian Nathan) This is not in anyway a criticism of Shame, I am merely pointing out that whilst this film does not glamorise sex or show a world that anyone could aspire to live in with its harsh muted tones and scenes filled with self-loathing disgust – the sex itself is not always entirely undesirable.
Anyway, in conclusion ladies and gents, Shame is bleak and cold and I loved it! It’s a film from an actor/director pairing that fans of British cinema have something to get excited about which is why I am very pleased that they’re already in pre-production with their next feature Twelve Years a Slave (also featuring the equally marvellous Chiwetel Ejiofor)