This film is outrageous, offensive and sure to have decent-minded audiences storming out of cinemas in disgust. However, those who don’t mind a cinematic challenge can stray outside their comfort zones and enjoy what amounts to a whole lot of fun.
Shortbus, the name of a fictional New York 'alternative' club, is an unusual film. It has a blend of audacity, fun, frivolity, seriousness and drama that the broad-minded may find immensely entertaining but will disgust others. Though perverse at times, it is refreshingly different to what is normally on offer. The story has substance and includes interesting characters, including a sex therapist who has never had an orgasm, her frisky husband, a dominatrix who can’t connect emotionally and a gay couple who consider introducing a third man to their relationship. I don’t agree with the theme of sexual liberation, but felt it was worth depicting.
The distributor claims Shortbus contains the most explicit sex in a film with an ‘R’ rating. As I recollect, Baise Moi (French for “fuck me”) contained much more graphic (and violent) sex. Its initial ‘R’ classification was subsequently revoked, a matter of controversy at the time. However, there really is no comparison – Baise Moi was a trashy porno flick (which wasn't even listed on IMDB) and Shortbus is superior in every respect.
During the screening, I found myself asking “why are we as a society so easily offended by sexuality, yet we line up en masse to see people shot and blown to pieces?” We've become so blasé about violence but shy away from carnality. The film depicts a fair bit of sex and it is very much 'in your face'. But it was not the major part of the film – there is a whole lot more going on regarding relationships, hang-ups and neuroses.
The film is set in New York which always looks good on the big screen. There is some novel animation that is used to good effect, especially during the opening and closing sequences. The film could have benefited from some tighter editing (ten minutes could have been cut towards the end), but was mostly quite snappy.
Several films have been lauded in recent times for being quirky, like Chumscrubber, Brick and Little Miss Sunshine. I found those films quite boring and contrived, but Shortbus is truly quirky, original and interesting. If you’re feeling just a little bit adventurous, go see this film before the killjoys lobby the OFLC to have its classification revoked. It’ll have you laughing your head off one minute, and crying the next.
Dir, Scr: John Cameron Mitchell Rating: R Duration: 102 min Genre: drama/comedy Language: English Country: USA Release: 9/11/06, limited Viewed: 13/10/06, Cinema Nova, distributor's advance screening Dist: Hopscotch Prod Co: Q Television, Process Prod: Howard Gertler, Tim Perell, John Cameron Mitchell Sound Des: Benjamin Cheah Phot: Frank G. DeMarco Ed: Brian A. Kates Prod Des: Jody Asnes Mus: Yo La Tengo Cast: Sook-Yin Lee, Paul Dawson, Lindsay Beamish, PJ DeBoy, Raphael Barker, Jay Brannan, Peter Stickles, Justin Bond
Official website IMDB