Confession time: I haven’t seen Hunger. It’s been on my to-watch list for ages but there are only so many times you have a real hankering to watch a movie about a hunger strike. However, reviews of Shame I’d read said that the two movies were quite different despite the same director and lead actor so I felt okay going it. After seeing this movie I will definitely make some time for Hunger.
Before the film started the director, Steve McQueen, came on stage and addressed the audience. “Look,” he said. “Just look.”
"Okay buddy," I thought.
But sometimes looking was hard. Shame is not an easy film. It stars Michael Fassbender as Brandon, an average New York office worker struggling with sex addiction and Carey Mulligan as Sissy, his sister who suddenly comes to stay with him. Their relationship isn’t healthy, they are both wrapped up in their own problems, but Sissy really wants to make things work out. Sissy’s arrival has thrown off Brandon’s agenda of prostitutes, casual hookups, porn and masturbation and he becomes increasingly hostile. I feel that the movie was waaaay more complex than that but it’s the best I can come up with right now haha.
Fassbender and Mulligan are both disgustingly beautiful and played their characters perfectly. Their scenes together charged and absorbing, and while the actors played off one another really well, I think it was McQueen’s choices in filming and camera work that made them remarkable. The film is meticulously shot - everything is done for a reason. Scenes were often a single take that lasts for minutes, and close-ups and angles were used so that the viewer could only be focused on one thing. Some of the things Brandon gets up to are pretty intense, and I won’t lie, I was feeling a bit awkward at times, but our attention is forced onto it. We have to acknowledge Brandon’s problem just as much has he does.
The film is ultimately about an addiction, but one that is little talked about despite being a very current issue. Sex is so ingrained in today’s society and it’s oh so very to easy to get, especially since the growth of the internet. Later in the question and answer period McQueen said that the film grew out of research and while he started investigating in London no one would talk to him, so he moved ship to New York where people were a bit more open about it.
As my friend said after: “I feel a bit weird for having spent two hours watching Michael Fassbender have unfulfilling sex and beat off but NO REGRETS.”
Also we saw Thomas Sangster (the little kid in Love Actually) while we were just waiting around outside the theatre. Celebrity viewing dream fulfilled!!!!!!!!
This year my friend and I are participating in the Toronto International Film Festival for the first time, and while we’re only seeing a few films, I thought I’d write up a bit about each of them. Please bear with me!
Last night we saw Where Do We Go Now?, a film by Lebanese director Nadine Labaki. It tells the story of a small, isolated village in Lebanon where relations between Muslims and Christians have traditionally been very good. Outside influences seep in, tensions rise and the men begin fighting among one another. The women of the village, always friends, decide to collaborate to stop the violence and keep their community together. The schemes they think up are ridiculous and absolutely hysterical.
Initially I found Where Do We Go Now a sharp contrast from the other film about Lebanon and its civil war I saw this year, Incendies. That movie, by Canadian director Denis Villeneuve, is quite possibly the most tragic and heartbreaking films I have ever seen. I walked out of the theatre feeling shell-shocked… It was, in a word, horrifying. Where Do We Go Now approached the subject in a much more light-hearted manner, but I think the underlying message was the same - war is devastating, war tears apart family and community. The women of the village do what they do out of desperation. They’ve seen enough death, they’ve lost too many loved ones already to endure anymore. The balance between comedy and seriousness is perfect - we are laughing, but the fear of violence is never forgotten. At one point I found myself getting a little teary, and minutes later cracking up with laughter. The movie is a celebration of life and a reminder of its preciousness.
Afterwards the director herself came onstage (to a standing ovation) and took questions from the audience. She was too cute, and I only realized later that she starred in the movie as well. I found it interesting to learn that many of the actors had previously no experience, and that often they were playing a character of a religion different to their own - the actor who played the Christian priest, for example, was in fact Muslim. Everyone who worked on the film believed strongly in the message and wanted badly for it to be made. Additionally, the mystery as to why the score was so brilliant was answered… the composer was the director’s husband of course.
So, so far, festival experience has been excellent! Mind, I haven’t seen any celebrities yet, I must be hanging around the wrong areas! Later I was at a party and a friend said that she’d seen Keira Knightly so they’re out there… somewhere…. Next up is Shame, so hopefully I’ll catch of glimpse of Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan hohoho