Sunday, October 01, 2006

Shortbus



USA, 2006, 102 min, Color, 35mm
Directed By: John Cameron Mitchell
EXEC PRODS: Michael J. Werner, Wouter Barendrecht
PRODS: Howard Gertler, Tim Perell, John Cameron Mitchell
SCR: John Cameron Mitchell
CAM: Frank G. DeMarco
ED: Brian A. Kates
MUS: Yo La Tengo
Cast: Sook-Yin Lee, Paul Dawson, Lindsay Beamish, PJ DeBoy, Raphael Barker

On Saturday night we went to see Shortbus, which played in front of a seriously packed house. The saying is true: sex does sell. This being the movie's Canadian première (unconfirmed, really, but overheard), some of the actors were present for some (very revealing) Q & A at the end but director John Cameron Mitchell could not attend.

Shortbus is the story of individuals, all in some form of relationship, who are looking for a connection and greater happiness in NY, NY in the post 9/11 age. At the heart of the story is Canada's own Sook-Yin Lee as Sofia, a married sex therapist who has never experienced an orgasm. She's counseling a gay couple, knows as the Jamies, one of whom is in deep depression. The Jamies introduce Sofia to Shortbus, and at the club she bonds with a dominatrix, Severin, while the boys enlist a third, Ceth, to save their relationship. Mitchell has created an exceptional, highly sentimental portrait of modern city dwellers unable to allow others to penetrate their shells in non-sexual ways.

Developed by Mitchell in collaboration with his stellar ensemble through numerous improv sessions, Shortbusis a spiritual quest for genuine contact and connection. But to get to the genuine, there is a lot of physical contact. Shortbus is highly sexualised, and while the sex is graphic and real, it is never uncalled for and certainly never makes us feels uncomfortable. Sex and related encounters in Mitchell's movie - be it gay, straight or solo - are quirky and funny and serve as a form of dialog. During the Q & A, Lee explained that Mitchell was trying to use sex in this movie to do what songs did in Hedwig and the Angry Inch and I think that he succeeded at doing so.

I really did enjoy Shortbus. The dialog was smart and humor was almost always present. I found myself wanting to own this movie (I own Hedwig, and *adore* it) until 3/4 of the film through. The last quarter is not as funny, and I was a tad disappointed by that. But regardless, this is a smart movie that deserves all the praise it as been getting.

As for the Q & A, it was fantastic. Sook-Yin Lee felt very talkative and explained many things in detail, from casting to production. She provided us with a lot of details pertaining to filming the sex scenes and how actors overcame their shyness. From female condoms to growing up in the Lynn Valley, we were given a lot of insider and personal information. I think that the insights that Lee provided enabled the audience to have a greater appreciation for Shortbus.

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