August 17, 2005

Sing A Song, Sing Out Loud


It's a nice thing to have friends to go to the movies with -- except for when it takes nearly 2 weeks of scheduling discussions to get there. But no matter, last week Cinecultist and our friend JP pooled our collective Michael Winterbottom love and took in the director's newest, 9 Songs. Before we even agreed to see the movie together, we joked about the inherent weirdness in going to see a sexually explicit art house movie with a friend and good thing too because Winterbottom puts his camera in places CC didn't know cameras could go. It brings new meaning to the phrase, "extreme close-up."

The film is about a young British guy, Matt who reminisces while in Antarctica about his relationship with an American girl Lisa, flashing back to their nights out at indie rock shows and in bed. Or on the kitchen table. Or in hotel rooms. Or the bathtub. Anyhow, there's lots of sex in this and the aspect that everyone's been talking about is how it's "real." Hipster porn, if you will.

However, like porn 9 Songs is heavy on the action but lighter on the characters or motivation. Apparently all that Matt really recalls is the music and the sex, but none of the talking or the connection. In most romances we at least get to see how the couple met, but here it's a quick cut from interior concert scene to interior bedroom. What was the initial pick-up line? For Winterbottom's story, that detail is mere detritus. Not to seem like a total chick about it, but CC finds it difficult to identify with movies where the characters don't prioritize talking. Of course we're meant to understand that they just feel, but for someone who spends a lot of time in our own head this is tough to buy.

Even in Godard's Contempt, another movie about an insular relationship and the power of sex on screen, we get at least a glimpse of the Brigitte Bardot character's interior life. But in 9 Songs, Lisa is a complete cypher. She's there and then she's gone. It is only at the end that we find out that Matt only stepped foot inside her apartment the day she left London. If this dude can't even get inside her front door, how could he really think he's entered her life?

Cinecultist's complaint about the concert footage in the film, that it never really gets close enough the visceral experience of being at a great show, seems to also be our problem with the characters. The camera captures every physical detail of them, but doesn't actually take us to the heart of things.

Posted by karen at August 17, 2005 8:50 AM