Sunday, September 18, 2011

TIFF 2011: Celebrated Director Steve McQueen Brings "Shame" to the Festival

After seeing 32 films in 10 days, I can categorically say that only one film stood out for me:  writer/director Steve McQueen's Shame -- an incredibly dark and brutally honest film.

[Pictured: Director Steve McQueen (Hunger)]

Handsome, likeable and successful, Brandon (Michael Fassbender) appears to have his life together, but looks can be deceiving.  In reality, he is a desperate, weak and sad man who suffers from the ills of sex addiction.  Incapable of having a normal relationship with anybody, he hides in his lonely world and takes solace in having indiscriminate sex and watching internet porn.  Despite his infliction, he's able to manage his personal and work life -- that is until an unexpected visit from his estranged sister (Carey Mulligan) throws his world in a tail spin.

There's no doubt that Shame's edgy images will discomfort and embarrass audiences.  Some viewers will likely turn away from the screen and that's to McQueen's credit.  The secret life that he creates for Brandon is ugly and yes, shameful.

Fassbender effortlessly brings a sensibility to his character, who -- in lesser hands -- would be repulsive. Mulligan delivers an impressive dramatic performance and McQueen's direction is simply outstanding.

There are many films that depict the struggles of addiction -- including, Owning Mahoney (gambling), Requiem for a Dream (drugs) and, of course, Leaving Las Vegas (alcohol), but its rare when a film recognizes the pitfalls of sex over-consumption.

In today's world of excess, it's about time we have Shame.

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