So here’s the deal. On Tuesday I met filmmaker and artist Steve McQueen (twice actually at two different events), who, along with Michael Fassbender (a really approachable, genuinely nice, honest and down to earth guy) are currently on a U.S. and European publicity tour for Shame. McQueen himself is a pretty fascinating guy. VERY intense, talks 100MPH a minute, but who somehow instinctively knows what you’re going to ask him, and says it even before you can ask him. Also with a really great sense of humor, so it’s all not gloom and doom with him.
Of course I had to tell him that his film, Shame, perhaps more than any other film we’ve dealt with recently on S & A, has gotten more heated and angry comments than any other film – especially from people who haven’t seen the film yet – on the site. (Well actually more angry comments from two certain people whom, I’m sure, because of their self-absored, self-centered, overbearing egos will no doubt have something to say about this)
McQueen was genuinely stunned when I told him this. He had, as I called it, a totally incredulous look on his face. He found it really hard to believe that anyone would be that angry about his film. But whenever someone deals with sex in a film, especially in the raw, intentionally emotionally cold manner that he does in Shame, it will raise the hackles of some people. (i.e. prudes, frigid or ain’t getting any)
In fact, he at first thought that people were upset because it’s a black director who’s dealing with a subject like this, that would get some black people upset. I told him that perhaps it could be for some. There are those who like our black directors to be as safe and as tame and as non-threatening as possible. But there are those, however, especially myself, who love to see a black director going “outside the box.” But he said it was all “very interesting”, in his understated British way, that people were reacting in such a way to his film; especially the ones who haven’t seen it yet and who, no doubt, never will.
And let’s be honest, Shame is not a film for everyone. It is a tough and brutal film, but one that I think is fascinating, intense and maybe brilliant at times. It’s in the top three of the best films I’ve seen this year. All the raves you been reading about are totally justified. But despite the sex in the film (which for those who have never watched a porn film, will be graphic; but for those who have, it’s pretty tame), it’s not about sex. It’s about two psychologically and emotionally damaged people (Fassbender and Carey Mulligan who plays his grasping sister), who are unable and afraid to communicate honestly with other human beings; People who are internally scarred and desperate for any kind of direct human contact. People deal with this in their own way through drugs, or alcohol, or food, or self destructive behavior. In Fassbender character’s case, it’s through sex. Which is why his big scene with Nicole Beharie has such an emotional weight. She’s the first person he’s met for whom he forms a real emotional bond. As a result it has a devestaing impact on him.
I urge you to check it out. It is a challenging film and there are those who hate, more like are afraid, to be challenged; but why not take the risk? It’s a risk-taking film, but there’s nothing wrong with that at all. Sometimes you fall on your face and sometime you succeed, but it’s always worth it.