Brown Bunny and 9 Songs are two recent examples of traditions that reach back to In The Realm of the Senses and Romance, films where even onscreen blowjobs aren’t enough to draw your attention away from the fact that they’re awful. Sure the titillation makes them a little more tolerable, but not even the forbidden thrill of seeing an actress or actor reach down and start gobbling away at their co star can improve some of these plotless self indulgent turkeys.
The French erotic drama Q (Accent) is the latest in this questionable club, the tale of a small coastal town that’s swept into an erotic frenzy once the sexually uninhibited Cecile breezes through. You kind’ve know what you’re in for from the outset, a bunch of girls all chattering about their risqué sexual escapades. Not so weird right? Except they’re all naked in communal showers and it’s shot in close up focussing on their breasts and vaginas. So basically Q begins with talking vaginas. Cecile takes on the role of a sexual Mary Poppins, sprinkling her provocative pixie dust on everyone she encounters, unlocking the libido of virginal beauties, sexually reintroducing a couple to each other post tragedy in possibly the kinkiest way you can imagine, and helping a couple of lesbians realise their unspoken attraction.
It transpires she’s using her sexuality to mask her internal pain, which might explain why she’s so confrontational, offering potential suitors a little more than a spoonful of sugar. But the effect is surprisingly similar. The medicine goes down if you know what I mean and everyone is all the better for it.
Shame (Transmission) is sex as a response to trauma, most likely of the sexual kind. It’s a bleak austere film that plays on the wish fulfilment fantasy of cinema, i.e. a rich successful hot guy bagging a gaggle of hot chicks with alarming ease. Though the cracks begin to show when he feels the need to lighten his load in the work bathroom. Michael Fassbinder (Inglurious Bastards) can’t help but ogle and seduce every female he comes into contact with. He’s a walking example of a Peaches song, each act, each breath, each look screams ‘fuck the pain away.’ Initially it works, that is until the unwelcome arrival of his sister Carey Mulligan, whose desperation for connection forces him to examine his own coping mechanisms. His terrified resistance to any kind of emotional intimacy forces him further into shallow, increasingly harmful sexual encounters. Shame is written by Abi Morgan (Iron Lady), with the dialogue as austere as Fassbinder’s apartment. Though it’s Steve McQueen’s (Hunger) direction that is the real highlight, expertly conveying the bleak emotional turmoil via silence, a furtive look, or mournful classical music during some of Fassbinder’s more feverish sexual exploits.
Shame is the aftermath, it’s about the struggle to protect yourself and stay numb, to bury the pain and escape into flesh. The problem is that you can’t bury it forever. It will find a way out and will stay with you. Much like this film.