Saturday, October 14, 2006


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


delon melville said...

Chumscrubber was the worst film of the year, Little Miss Sunshine was melodrama existential crisis writ large condensed into one week of a family, in a genre movie.

I think you were pretty harsh on Brick, has teen cult movie written all over it. Amalgam of noir and teen, and quite seemless. Ofcourse it would be contrived to a point, when you put it within such restrictions, but entertaining and unique nevertheless. Not many unique narratives exist. Most would contend none. But this deserves credit.

Shortbus, freakish neurotic freaks. May have overplayed its hand. But that is what it was I understand, but maybe less is more, one does not necessarily need to be an outsider by their visage, yet this was ramped up to exagggeration proportions. Think musical genre, and replace sex with music. Sex is a different music I suppose.

For those shortcomings, fine film.

delon melville said...

hmm, pardon my grammar. I can't edit, and the internet is a medium where I refuse to proof. So I make self-referential justifications like these - irony.

Paul Martin said...

My worst film of the year was Hard Candy - only the second film that I've given 0 stars to (the other being Baise Moi).

I found Chumscrubber, Little Miss Sunshine and Brick just OK - tolerable as time-wasters. But not what I go to the cinema for. I wrote a short review of each of these at At The Movies (as linked above). The review of Brick will tell you why I didn't particularly like it.

Paul Martin said...

I didn't think Shortbus was an exceptional film, but I like films to take risks. I'll often recommend a film for that reason, because after a while many films just merge into homogeny.

afraid said...

but yeah, worst piece of shit film I've ever seen. It is listed, but it shouldn't be.

Paul Martin said...

Hi Barnaby. You didn't mention that the link was to IMDB's post for Baise-Moi.

I find it interesting that a search on IMDB doesn't find Baise-Moi, but a Google search does (I assume that's how you found it). I suspect that IMDB removed it from its search engine because it's not really a cinema film per se. It's a cheap porno flick masquerading as a film through dishonest marketing. How mainstream film reviewers ever accepted this as a film is beyond me.

I can't argue with your comments, though I did find Hard Candy just as bad.