In terms of delivering solid, exciting creme de la creme fall releases the Telluride Film Festival, for all its soothing aromas and enjoyments, has felt thin to me. The Descendants thus far has been the only solid triple/home run. That could change with today’s dual showings of Steve McQueen‘s Shame, which the Guardian‘s Xan Brooks and other Venice Film Festival have mostly raved about.
Michael Fassbender in Steve McQueen’s Shame, the Telluride Film Festival’s last best hope to at least match the Descendants buzz.
David Cronenberg‘s A Dangerous Method will also screen twice in Telluride today, but that psycho-sexual period drama has already been relegated to some extent by Venice reviewers (along with George Clooney‘s The Ides of March) to the solid B or B-plus category…maybe. Telluride reactions will obviously add to the mix, as will those at Toronto starting next weekend.
“Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan give dynamite performances in Shame, a terrific second feature from the British artist Steve McQueen,” writes Brooks.
“Fassbender is Brandon, a sex-addicted corporate drone, directing a radioactive stare at random women across the aisle on the New York subway. Mulligan plays Sissy, his sister, who sings for her supper, self-harms for kicks and is surely pointed towards disaster. ‘We’re not bad people,’ Sissy assures her sibling. ‘We just come from a bad place.’
“Specifically this place is Manhattan, which McQueen depicts as a hell of sterile offices, anonymous apartments and desperate pick-up joints, though it may conceivably refer to the world at large.
Shame feels less formal, less rooted in the language of the art installation than McQueen’s previous film, Hunger, and is all the more satisfying for that. This is fluid, rigorous, serious cinema; the best kind of adult movie. There are glimmers of American Gigolo to its pristine sheen and echoes of Midnight Cowboy to the scratchy, mutual dependence of the damaged duo at the core.
“For her big showstopper at a downtown nightclub, Sissy takes the stage to croon her way through a haunting, little-girl-lost rendition of New York, New York, slowing the pace and milking the pathos. Brandon sits at the back, his jaw locked, his eyes welling. In the song’s melting, dying fall, he catches a glimpse of the lie behind the tinsel and smells the inevitable death of all her dreams, and maybe his dreams as well.”
Variety‘s Justin Chang says the following in his opening graph: “Few filmmakers have plumbed the soul-churning depths of sexual addiction as fearlessly as British director Steve McQueen has in Shame.
“A mesmerizing companion piece to Hunger, this more approachable but equally uncompromising drama likewise fixes its gaze on the uses and abuses of the human body, as Michael Fassbender again strips himself down, in every way an actor can, for McQueen’s rigorous but humane interrogation. Confrontational subject matter and matter-of-fact explicitness will position the film at the higher end of the specialty market, but it’s certain to arouse critical acclaim and smart-audience interest wherever it’s shown.”