16 April 2008


Wednesday afternoon. The last day of the holiday season, the last hours of relaxation and peace before hectic life resumes tomorrow morning. I've heard of Shortbus for a long time and the DVD has been on the shelf for a long time. But the problem is I didn't have time to watch it. So today is a good day to fulfill my wish -- watching the film and writing something about it.

I'm sure a lot of prudes will be put off by the first five minutes of the film, when there're scenes of strong sexual nature like self-fellatio, orgasm, and weird sexual positions. These scenes are meant to draw attention and set the general tone and as the film progresses we start to realise that these sexual scenes are not there to make you cum but are there to make you think. (I think this is a good reason why it's not porn -- but hey what's wrong with porn anyway!) Sex in Shortbus is a substitute for love and the film is strategically set in New York after the 9/11 incident. John Cameron Mitchell wishes to portray, I believe, how the tragic incident has changed how people, including him, view their lives. Along with other cultural manifestations of the same era, Shortbus shows how cynicism doesn't help, how such a blase feeling of been-there done-that is suddenly out of place. Cynicism and such a blase attitude (which is very urban) desensitise people, making people 'feel' less and becoming more reserved and indifferent, insensitive to their own and others' emotion. Somehow this also incapacitates their ability to love.

This indifference to love is rendered symbolically through some bodily taboos -- how Sofia hasn't experienced orgasm and how James hasn't allowed anyone to 'penetrate' him. Sex is used here not as a celebration of life, but as a reiteration of how we are left unfulfilled emotionally. I think this is especially the case with cosmopolitan people who have so much sexual experience of many kinds and with many species of beings, but have so little time to reflect on them. After all, who wouldn't want to impress their friends with their sexual escapades?

Like Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Shortbus manages to give an optimistic view on this premise. Perhaps what we need in this new millennium is once again a spirit of camaraderie, a rapport among those who are equally 'lost' in the big city. And this has never been more true than in a post 9/11 New York, when people realise that at least there's something 'real' in their lives. It's sad though to think that one needs such a tragedy to affirm that their life is real.

The soundtrack of the film is also good. If you like the songs in Hedwig and the Angry Inch, you will probably like those in Shortbus too. They're kind of uplifting and perhaps good to sing along in your bad days. Let me give you my favourite part of the song at the end:

there's a past stained with tears

could you talk to quiet my fears

could you pull me aside

just to acknowledge that i've tried ...


Jackkrit Anantakul / Thiyada Suchaoin said...

Love Shotbus and Hedwig and the Angry Inch. It make me cry

oui said...

Love the film and like your review.