20 January 2012

fragments on Shame

In his review of Shame for Film Quarterly, k-punk mentions the music which dominates the first act or so of the film – Chic, Blondie, Tom Tom Club – and their temporal significance: 'they’re now as “classic” in their own way as the Bach that Brandon prefers to listen to as he jogs through the city.'

The point being that they represent through the flat chronology and ever-present past of the ipod playlist an erasure of time to match the erasure of location in the non-places (Marc Augé's concept) in which Brandon lives/works/fucks. What struck me about these selections was also spatial-temporal, but in a kind of reverse of this erasure, I thought it had to a very deliberate attempt on McQueen's part to summon the ghosts of a very particular time and place: the pre-AIDs Manhattan of the late 70s/early 80s, and the epic sexual hedonism of its nightlife.

The spectre of AIDs suggested to me a kind of ghost film which you could project onto Shame: in this film Brandon is gay, and not so much sex-addicted through compulsion as availability. I haven't thought through the idea of a coded, closeted Shame, to say the least, but it could at least complicate a reading of Brandon's visit to a gay club (which as Ryan Gilbey notes, in its presentation as an Inferno-esque descent into degradation on Brandon's part, is otherwise 'unworldly' - read homophobic), turning it into some kind of weird wormhole/pivot/confrontation.


On the other hand Voyou's observation that Shame parallels an Apatow film is uncannily accurate: almost every incident can be reimagined played for homosocial but always hetero dudes. Walking in on your sister in the shower (dude! gross!), your sister interrupting you masturbating (LOL bro!), your sister making out with your boss right next to you in a taxi then sleeping with him on the other side of a thin wall (dude, awkward), your boss confronting you about the porn on your work PC, etc. Nor is the film's crisis point exactly beyond Apatow's bounds, suicide, cancer and childbirth all furnishing moments of 'depth' and learning in his oeuvre. I'm reminded of an idea I once had watching a sitcom: one freakishly delusional/sociopathic narcissist, character A, was being stalked by an even more delusional devotee, character B. Character B was attempting to get into character A's flat; the slapstick, as B and A wrestled over the door and locks, was well directed, but the thought of seeing exactly the same actions replayed not for laughs but with a kind of documentary fidelity to the characters' unhappiness and desperation was chilling. Shame stands in a similar relation to Apatow and his affiliates.

1 comment:

carl said...

melinda and melinda was supposed to do this but didn't, right, ie take exactly the same set of events and through directorial and other techniques recast the comedic as tragic and vice versa
. it should still be done, the same material, the same actors wrung throgh several genres/ forms of cinematic discourse.

also the shadow movie is always much better than the actual movie innit...more than ever i think as spectators we can't submit ourselves to our role, we HAVE to take control. the movie is the supplement to, the provocation for the real movie, which we write around it in our heads.