'Everything seems to be aimed at making the viewer feel ill at ease, at giving him the impression that he is watching for the first time scenes from a life he never dreamed could have existed. Fellini has described his film as "science fiction of the past," as though the Romans of that decadent age were being observed by the astounded inhabitants of a flying saucer." Tullio Kezich
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.
'It's our only chance,' Kate repeated. 'We haven't got a future away from here. This is the future.' 'Oh come,' Anthony said, 'that's pitching it strong. After all, here we are foreigners.' 'We're national. We're national,' Kate said, 'from the soles of our feet. But nationality's finished. Krogh doesn't think in frontiers. He's beaten unless he has the world.' 'Minty was talking,' Anthony said, 'about short-term loans.' 'That's temporary.' 'You mean he's had to take them already?' Anthony asked. 'Is money so close? It looks bad. Do you think we are safe here? I'm all for rats. I don't believe in any Casabianca stuff.' 'You don't imagine,' Kate said, 'that Krogh could be beaten by us. That's all that nationality is – it's we, the hangers-on, the little dusty offices I've worked in, Hammond, your pubs, your Edgware Road, your pick-ups in Hyde Park.' Deliberately she turned away from the thought that there had been a straightness about the poor national past which the international present did without. It hadn't been very grand, but in their class at any rate there had been gentleness and kindness once. 'It's home,' Anthony said. He raised his lonely small boy's face. 'You don't understand, Kate. You've always liked this modern stuff, that fountain.'
'[In 1990] I was in and out of meetings with Russell and Lyor Cohen at Def Jam. Lyor would walk in, take off his jacket, remove his guns, and start popping pills with mineral water every other sentence. I was thinking "This guy's obviously off his head." He'd go: "Bullet, every time we drop '20 Seconds to Comply' it makes the hair on the back of our heads stand on end. We want you to be the rap version of Ozzy Osbourne. I see you coming onstage with a full-size guillotine, and a crow on your arm. We want you to cut sheep's heads off and chuck them into the front row...'
Minty turned on her; his eyes were damp and burning. 'It's not his own money. He's a borrower, nothing more than a borrower. We can't borrow because we are not trusted. If they trusted us, we should be Kroghs ourselves. He's only one of us. He has no more roots than we have. But we, we have to live within our means; the banks won't trust us; we count our cigarettes, live where it's cheap, save on the laundry, pick up pocket-money by our wits. You're too young my dear,' he said, with open malice, 'to understand these things.' He didn't like girls, he couldn't have said it in words more plainly; tawdry little creatures, other people's sisters, their hats blocking the view at Lords.
'No, no,' Krogh said, 'we can't do that. What will the papers say? To have left the opera to go to Tivoli. They'll think I'm mad. What will happen to the market?' 'Forget it,' Anthony said. 'Forget the market,' Krogh said with astonishment; he began to laugh uneasily, guiltily. 'What a desperate fellow you are,' he repeated.