Directed by: John Cameron Mitchell
Countries & Regions: United States
Studio: Universal Pictures
Length: 101 mins
Region: Region 2
Released: 18 June 2007
Cat No: 8248306
Screen ratio 1:1.78
Dolby Digital 5.1
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Risqué sexual politics drama about a gang of young New Yorkers. Directed by John Cameron Mitchell of ’Hedwig And The Angry Inch’ fame,... Read More
Unsimulated sex – or rumours of the same – has been a selling point of films since before Donald Sutherland took a tumble with Julie Christie in Don't Look Now. More recently, a wave of explicit arthouse cinema has attempted to reclaim the sexual act as a mark of emotional vérité; the results have often been depressing, to say the least.
Shortbus fills the chasm that lies between the austere cliffs of arthouse sex and the slippery slope of pornography with a landslide of music and imagination. Explicit but never gratuitous, the film follows a group of New Yorkers – including a gay couple who have awkwardly decided to open up their relationship and a female sex therapist who has never had an orgasm – whose struggles with life, love and sex bring them together to Shortbus, an underground salon of art, music and performance (not to mention healthy doses of free love).
Their tales are tied together by a vast, animated papier-mâché model of New York itself, through which the camera weaves, pausing to hover above the scars left by 9/11, a crater as raw as a broken heart, before sweeping to reveal the lives of the city's inhabitants framed through their apartment windows.
Director John Cameron Mitchell's first film, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, was riotously beautiful, fiercely intelligent – not to mention enormously good fun – and with Shortbus, he has developed themes of identity and belonging and spun them into a broader tapestry exploring the life, love and loneliness of New Yorkers living after the fall of the World Trade Center.
Using non-professional actors and workshopped dialogue, the film explores the joy and loneliness human beings express through their bodies, celebrating the numerous meanings of sex, not its shock value. Uniquely, Shortbus incorporates dialogue and plot developments in situations, and positions, where one might suppose the actor's minds would be elsewhere. The result defies our expectations of what we expect from a film, and yet feels somehow familiar, recalling real-life moments and experiences that are rarely captured in art.
Mitchell's goal was, in his own words, to give his audience an emotional hard-on rather than a physical one.