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Wednesday, January 4, 2012

SEXUAL OBSESSIONS AND PSYCHOANALYSIS TAKE CENTRE STAGE


Sexual obsessions and psychoanalysis take centre stage
Steve McQueen’s “Shame” explores addiction; Jan Svankmajer’s “Surviving Life” charts one man’s disturbing dreams

By Iain Millar. Features, Issue 230, December 2011
Published online: 07 December 2011

Steve McQueen takes a step slightly further away from the day-to-day preoccupations of the art world and more firmly into the film world with his second feature, “Shame”. It’s a degree less formal than his previous venture, with a more conventional story arc, no previously known central protagonist (his first film, “Hunger”, had the IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands as its central character) and a visual style that, while controlled, assured and arresting, draws more on the language of conventional narrative cinema, with fewer of the slow-moving tableaux of the earlier film.

McQueen himself, though, will have none of it, asserting at a press conference at the London Film Festival, that he makes no distinction between his visual art and filmic output. So he says. That there are many and varied differences, but much shared territory also, is too long a debate for this space. So it’s a movie, made by a fine artist (who went to film school, as well as art college).

Michael Fassbender (who portrayed Sands in “Hunger”) plays Brandon, a successful New York marketing executive with a private compulsion: he’s a sex addict. He’s not particularly discerning: bar encounters, prostitutes and online porn sites are all fair game, but anything approaching commitment is not on the list. A date with a co-worker who wants a slightly more conventional dating cycle leaves him impotent. When she leaves he calls a prostitute and his ability is restored.

That his addiction is a big risk is made clear early on when his work computer is taken away for a service. When it’s returned, he’s given a warning by his boss that it needs to stay clean of the videos and images that have been found on it, but nonetheless he’s given a pass as he regularly delivers the results the company wants.


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