In the dialogue-free opening sequence of Shame director Steve McQueen introduces us to Brandon (Michael Fassbender) a handsome New Yorker who goes through a morning routine tackles the responsibilities of his high profile day job socializes with co-workers and all the while struggles with an insatiable desire for sexual pleasure. As the strings of composer Harry Escott's score swell we see Brandon in two scenarios: holding back from advancing on a beautiful young subway-rider and succumbing to carnal instinct with the help of a prostitute. It's a powerful setup for Fassbender's breathtaking performance which ranks among the best of the year.
Shame forcefully declares that sex addiction is just as tangible devastating and perplexing as any drug or alcohol problem but does so without didactic lessons or over-the-top indulgences. Fassbender's Brandon is on the other end of the spectrum from Nicolas Cage's crazed alcoholic character in Leaving Las Vegas with McQueen breaking long stretches of repression with harrowing moments of emotionless lust. The film works as a character portrait following Brandon as he finds himself falling deeper and deeper into the rabbit hole and witnessing the effects of his descent on the people around him. Picking up women isn't a problem for the dashing gent—he does so with ease on many an occasion—but when he tries dating the one woman he has feelings for he's void of sexual stamina. Unfortunately even in the sprawling city of New York there's no outlet for Brandon to confide in—his work buddies are all looking for an easy lay and his sister Sissy (Carey Mulligan) who shows up at his door one inopportune day has a heap of her own problems.
McQueen shoots Shame with precision that never feels staged each scene camera angle and directorial choice amplifying Brandon's dizzying situation Whether Brandon's entranced by Sissy's passionate rendition of "New York New York " working off his own sexual frustration with a quick jog or seducing a barfly's girlfriend at a hole-in-the-wall joint Fassbender and McQueen work in perfect tandem to bring the audience into the struggle. You will feel the raw power of Brandon unleashing his sex drive and you will feel the sadness behind Fassbender's face as he drifts alone through the city streets. Both moods are powerful moving and true.
Shame doesn't have an easy-to-swallow narrative a real beginning or an end. When you expect things to align into a traditional structure McQueen and screenwriter Abi Morgan subvert expectations—as life often does. What keeps us engrossed is Fassbender who can pull off the balancing act of suave and broken without tipping us off that he's acting at all. Shame received an NC-17 rating because of its racy imagery but the real maturity on display in the film is the bare bones depiction of human behavior.
April 11, 2008 5:57am EST
Natalie Portman is set to star in a new feature adaptation of Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights.
Portman will play heroine Catherine Earnshaw, who falls for Heathcliff in a passionate love that is ultimately thwarted.
The film, written by Girl With a Pearl Earring’s Olivia Hetreed, will be directed by John Maybury. Maybury’s credits include episodes of the miniseries Rome and 2005’s The Jacket with Adrien Brody and Keira Knightley.
Several screen versions have been made over the decades, but William Wyler’s 1939 version with Merle Oberon as Earnshaw and Laurence Olivier as Heathcliff is considered the definitive version, write today’s trades.
The last time it was brought to the screen, Heights paired Juliette Binoche with Ralph Fiennes.
Folks on the new project believe Portman will bring a freshness to the tale. “Natalie is without a doubt one of the most acclaimed actresses of her generation,” Tim Haslam, of international sales agency HanWay, told The Hollywood Reporter. “Combined with visionary director John Maybury, this promises to be a fresh, exciting version of a classic love story.”
Portman will next be seen in Jim Sheridan’s Brothers alongside Jake Gyllenhaal and Tobey Maguire.