When our own Oli Lyttleton saw “Shame” in Venice he declared Michael Fassbender‘s performance a “tour-de-force.” When this writer caught up with it at TIFF, I couldn’t help but agree and with the rest of the Playlist staffers screening it today at NYFF, one of them said that “Fassbender’s performance is easily the strongest male performance of the year.” Yes, he’s that good in Steve McQueen‘s “Shame” but the question now to be answered is how the Academy will respond.
Co-starring Carey Mulligan and a seamy New York City providing the backdrop, the film chronicles one man’s battle and downward spiral as his grip on sex addiction loosens and slowly overcomes him. Yes, there is nudity but this is the least erotic or sexy movie you’ll see all year. Sex in this case is a drug, and the interactions, though graphic, are less about desire than about a need to fill a nameless void. Fassbender haunts the screen like an emotionless shell and as the film goes on his addiction makes him more and more of an exile even in a city where it’s impossible to be alone. It’s deep and dark stuff, utterly powerful and wholly compelling. Of course, whether the prudish members of the Academy will be able to see the performance and not just the nudity and sexuality on display remains to be seen, but here’s hoping they do.
Appropriately, the teaser poster for the film on THR is nothing more than an empty bed with rumpled sheets without even a trace of who might have been there, capturing the stark tone of the movie effectively. Likely to be branded with an NC-17 rating, “Shame” opens in limited release on December 2nd.