Monday, April 30, 2012


Back around the time of 2003, during the release of his film “Last Life In The Universe”, director Pen-Ek Ratanaruang was riding the wave of international popularity.  I am sure that it is no coincidence that this recognition came due to the fact that he was working with master cinematographer Christopher Doyle on the film, which meant that “Last Life In The Universe” was always going to get more coverage than his previous films.  It was in fact the Doyle connection that introduced me to the world of Ratanaruang’s cinema, and I am so glad that these two artists did collaborate, for if they hadn’t I may not have become familiar with one of the greatest and most unique artists working in cinema today.  However after the working collaboration between the pair ended (they made one more feature, “Invisible Waves”, and a short, “Twelve Twenty” together), Ratanaruang’s films suddenly became much harder to see.  This was incredibly frustrating because the quality of the films did not drop at all (both the subsequent “Ploy” and “Nymph” are amazing films), but for some reason English language distributors did not pick up these films, and still today, there are no English-friendly releases for them.  As such, less has been written and discussed about them.  What is the point of this paragraph?  Nothing really except to point out that “Headshot” is often described as a return-to-form for Pen-Ek Ratanaruang, which I believe to be a false statement because I feel he was never out of form to begin with.  Thankfully “Headshot” has been picked up by international distributors so the film will be out there and seen, and yet somewhat ironically, this is the first film of Pen-Ek’s since 2001’s “Mon-Rak Transistor” that I have not seen on the big screen (but I am hoping it will screen at this year’s MIFF to rectify that).

“Headshot” is described by Ratanaruang himself as a “Buddhist film noir”.  It is a film that is told in a non-linear fashion with scenes from the past and present blending in a fluid way that the viewer is never once confused as to what exactly is going on.  The film is about a policeman called Tul, who after bringing down a politician’s son in a massive drug raid and then subsequently refusing to take a life changing bribe to make the crime go away, is set up for a murder he did not commit.  As a result of this set-up, Tul ends up going to jail for a lesser crime, and while there he reads a book by a doctor calling himself “The Demon”.  The book is about how he believes that evil exists in everybody and for some reason Tul finds himself drawn to the book enough to write a letter to the author.  Surprisingly, the doctor visits him in prison and explains to him that he is in a group that organizes assassinations on the criminals of the world, criminals who believe themselves to be above the law and think that they can get away with anything.  The doctor than says that he believes that Tul would be a perfect assassin for his organization and offers him a position.  Tul rejects this initial offer but later when he has done his time and is out of prison, he ends up joining the group for reasons I will not divulge here.  One day, while disguised as a monk and on the job to assassinate a corrupt politician, he is shot in the back of the head and is then in a coma for three months.  After he awakes, he realizes that he is suffering from a rare condition where he now literally sees everything upside down.  This is not at all good for a hitman because he just is not used to seeing the world like this, and as such he now has to look at things more closely and significantly, which includes himself as he begins to realize just how far off the path in life he has gone.  The more inward he looks, the more he is disturbed by what he has become, and he decides to leave this life of killing and to try and save his soul by becoming a monk for real.  However that is easier said than done with people looking for him and trying to kill him.

This is a film with so many twists and turns in it, that I have left out a great number of plot details (and characters) so as to not ruin the experience.  Also, as I mentioned before, the film is non-linear, so what I have described above does not all happen in a straight line.  The film is also quite dense with so much going on for its entire running time.  When I was explaining the whole film to my wife the other night, she was stunned that the film only went for an hour and forty minutes, because after everything that I mentioned she was sure it would’ve been closer to two and a half hours.  While I dispute the claim that this is a return-to-form for Ratanaruang, it is a return to the type of crime film he was making earlier in his career (with films like “Fun Bar Karoake” and “6ixtynin9”), yet it is infused with the spirituality of his later films.  I believe this is the first time that Pen-Ek has done an adaptation of someone else’s work, in this case a novel by Win Lyovarin entitled “Rain Falling Up The Sky”, and yet the whole thing feels like it could only have come from Pen-Ek himself, it just has the atmosphere present in all of his films.

What is interesting about “Headshot” is the way Rataranuang has handled the material because you would assume that most directors would use the whole “seeing the world upside down” gimmick as the backbone of the film, and exploit the situation visually.  While we do get Tul’s point of view shots every now and then, Rataranuang and his cinematographer Chankit Chamnivikaipong do not go to the well too often, they are more interested in the internal struggle that Tul is going through as opposed to the way he views the external world.  Actually this is a good thing too because the shots that we do see from upside down are so disorientating it would have been a hard slog watching if the technique was overused.  I must admit that I have always wanted Christopher Doyle and Rataranuang to make another film together, but if that is not to be, I’m glad his cinematographer of choice is Chamnivikaipong (he has been cinematographer on all of Pen-Ek’s films minus the Doyle ones).  He really does fantastic work and he continues to get better and better each film.  Chamnivikaipong appears to have found a real confidence since “Ploy” and he always makes visually interesting films.  I was particularly impressed by the set piece in the forest in the pouring rain.  He makes it look so beautiful while still getting the point across that visibility is almost nil.

The man chosen for the lead role of Tul was Nopachai Chaiyanam, who previously had a role in Rataranuang’s “Nymph”.  In that film, he really wasn’t given that much to do but did bring a presence with him however in “Headshot” he is almost in every scene.  The range of emotions he has to process throughout the film is amazing and it is his performance that holds the film together.  This is not a happy man and someone who is fighting an internal battle to find some peace within, so while a lot of the film is a physical battle, it is equally a mental battle too, which Chaiyanam is able to express via limited dialogue.  He also equips himself nicely in the physical states making it fully believable that he was a cop and is now a tough hitman.

The two girls in the film both make an impression also, but personally I loved Sirin Horwang as Rin, a girl that Tul takes hostage during one of his escapes.  She just had this attitude towards the world that I loved.  Yes, she was taken hostage, but it felt like she didn’t give a damn and was in control the whole time.  It helped that she also looked amazing especially in the scene in the forest that I mentioned above.  Chanokporn Sayoungkal, who plays Joy, is also very attractive but I felt she wasn’t as strong in the acting department as she could have been, as she appeared to only have one expression.

Compared to the last few films from Pen-Ek, “Headshot” is quite plot heavy, and yet those of you that go into the film thinking that this will be an action film will leave disappointed because the film works more as a drama with splashes of violence and action spread throughout.  Amazingly, with the amount of plot that is within the film, it is still presented in Pen-Ek’s usual style which is more about the visuals and mood as opposed to dialogue.  The whole Buddhist angle is worked well into the film, and it really does become more of a spiritual journey as the film goes on.  However with Buddhism really focusing heavily on karma, does a hitman really have a chance in today’s world?  A special mention must be made about Patamanadda Yukol’s editing which is truly outstanding.  As I mentioned earlier, he has created a beautiful fluid style, so while we may see images well before their meaning is fully explained to us, it never becomes confusing or overwhelming.  That is not to say that you do not have to pay attention, because you do, as scenes you think may be happening in the present can be from the past, but if you are focused while watching the film, you will never have a problem distinguishing them.

Overall, I was a big fan of Pen-Ek Rataranuang’s hitman thriller “Headshot”, it appears that the man just does not make bad films (ok, let’s pretend that “Invisible Waves” didn’t happen).  While this new film is considerably more plot heavy than his recent fare, it still has the same visual style and atmosphere of those mood pieces.  The film has a great leading performance from Nopachai Chaiyanam and it has been impeccably edited.  I wholeheartedly recommend “Headshot” and it is great to see Rataranuang continuing his streak of great and interesting films.  As usual I look forward to what is to come next from this exciting director.

4 Stars.

Friday, April 27, 2012


Over the next month or two, I plan to go through the oeuvre of Japanese director Sion Sono (aka Shion Sono).  Sono is a director who currently has quite a reputation for making bloody, violent and disturbing films that often have him compared to his countryman Takashi Miike.  Both directors seem attracted to the bizarre and the perverse, and both have the ability to work at a good pace, so you never have to wait too long for a new film from each director.  From a personal standpoint, I am still not sure whether or not I consider Sono to be a great filmmaker, which is the main reason for this little project.  If you look through this blog, you will see that I have already reviewed two of his recent features with mixed opinions (I thought “Cold Fish” was inspired, while “Guilty Of Romance” was a disappointment).  Previous to these I had already seen “Suicide Circle, which was the film that put Sono on the map, due in no small part to its very confronting opening scene.  The first film I decided to check out for this self-made retrospective was “Exte: Hair Extensions” which was made in 2007 and is about killer hair extensions (I know what you are thinking, not that tired old cliché again).  So was it any good?  Let’s take a look and see.

During a routine search of a shipping container full of human hair, which is being readied to be made into hair extensions, two custom officers stumble across the body of a human corpse inside.  After an autopsy, the coroner explains to the officers that the girl had been killed for her internal organs (as well as one of her eyes), to be sold on the black market, and that her body had been filled with her own hair.  A worker at the morgue, Yamazaki, who is more than a little bizarre as well as having a fetish for hair, soon realizes that the hair on the corpse is still growing and at an incredible rate.  Seeing an opportunity, the man steals the body from the morgue and takes her home where he uses the corpse’s hair to create new and quite beautiful hair extensions.  Meanwhile, in another part of the city, we find Yuko, an apprentice hair-dresser who is living with her best friend Yuki, an amateur dancer.  Yuko is currently preparing for a big hairdressing exam that is coming up, when her horrible sister dumps her daughter, Mami, on Yuko’s doorstep, explaining (via letter) that Yuko can now look after the young girl.  Suddenly, Yuko’s perfect world is disturbed by the unexpected arrival of her young niece.  Without being able to get in contact with her sister, she must look after Mami, all while continuing to go to work and study for her exam.  Things get more serious when Yuko notices all of the bruises on Mami’s body and understands that her sister, Kiyomi, has been abusing the girl.  While all this is going on, Yamazaki has visited the Gilles De Rais salon, where Yuko works, and offered the workers free samples of his new hair extensions, so confident he is of their quality.  When the hair-dressers start using these extensions strange things begin to happen to the wearer as the hair takes control of them and kills each of them.

The idea of killer hair extensions is obviously a ridiculous one, and luckily Sono knows this, and to battle this problem “Exte: Hair Extensions” is presented as a horror comedy.  That is not to say that moments in the film are not treated seriously, because the whole subplot of Mami’s abuse is handled with extreme seriousness by both the filmmakers and the actors.  Personally these dramatic moments I felt were the strongest of the film and held the most resonance.  It is heartbreaking seeing the bruises and scars on this young girl and in the way she reacts towards other human beings.  She is always afraid of being beaten and is so timid and apologetic for everything she does.  It is then quite beautiful seeing Mami come out of her shell and trusting Yuko, after all of the kindness she grants the young girl, and this creates an anchor for the audience while watching the film, it gives us something and someone to care about when the horror kicks in.

In regards to the horror scenes, these are not handled as seriously, but as I’ve already mentioned, how can they be, we are talking about killer hair extensions.  Instead Sono delivers these scenes with a tongue firmly planted in his cheek.  They are rarely terrifying, but visually they are quite something to behold.  While most of the effects are of the computer generated variety, they are all done extremely well with scenes of the killer hair appearing from open wounds or human orifices being particularly gruesome.  One scene where a girl is pulling a single strand of hair from underneath her eyeball had me on the edge of my seat.  The only problem with the horror is the connection between the victims and the rage-filled corpse that is controlling the hair.  While we learn the reason why she is so angry, we are never given any reason as to why she attacks the people she does and more importantly we are never given any proper explanation as to why she stops at the end, why she is suddenly at peace.  This is something that I feel that is important because without it, the reality of the situation suffers.  The film needs to have its own rules and once explaining them must then abide by these rules.  However here I feel the motive of the “ghost” is muddled and needed further explanation.

Something that I mentioned in both of my other reviews of Sion Sono films is the fact that he has problem with letting members of his cast overact.  He again falls into this trap here with Ren Ohsugi’s performance as Yamazaki.  He lets Ohsugi go so far over the top that it borders on ridiculousness.  Granted his character is rooted more in the comedy section of the film, but for me it just did not work at all, and it took me out of the film whenever he was on screen.  The early scenes at the morgue I thought he was genuinely creepy, but after he steals the corpse and wears that stupid wig, not to mention singing that insane hair song, well he feels like he has walked out of a completely different film.  This may be a personal preference because I am not a huge fan of comedy in my horror (unless it is of the darkest quality), and I have read a lot of people’s opinions who think Ren Ohsugi’s performance is the highlight of “Exte: Hair Extensions”.  While not suffering quite as bad, I also felt that Tsugami’s work in the role of Kiyomi, Yuko’s selfish and abusive sister, was also not grounded enough in reality and bordered on caricature.  As opposed to Yamazaki, the character of Kiyomi exists in the scenes that are handled the most realistically, where we are witness to the little girl’s abuse, and I believe if Tsugami had toned down her performance just a little, these scenes of true horror would have been much more disturbing.

At the other end of the acting spectrum is Chiaki Kuriyama’s truly wonderful performance as Yuki.  She is everything that the character needs as she is bubbly and fun in a naïve and innocent way, but when the child abuse drama is revealed she is able to pull off the necessary weight needed to give it the respect that it deserves. As the film goes on, we also find out that Yuki is carrying with her the guilt of an action she committed in the past, and again Kuriyama delivers the goods in these scenes. It is this performance that grounds the whole film in reality while everything around her is basically insane.  Another thing in her favour is that Chiaki Kuriyama just has a lovely screen presence, you cannot help but love her, and as I have mentioned many times before, this can only help a horror film when you actually care for the characters you are following.

Overall, there is much to like about “Exte: Hair Extensions”, but it also has its flaws.  While the film is definitely worth watching for Chiaki Kuriyama’s thespian abilities, once again I feel that director Sion Sono has let one of his actors go too far over the top to the detriment of the film.  Sono has created some outstanding visual images with regards to the hair horror scenes, however I never found these scenes to be scary, although it can be argued that they are played more for laughs anyway.  Although the film is often described as a horror / comedy, serious themes and issues are addressed within in regards to child abuse, and it is during these scenes that the film shines at its brightest.  Personally, I thought “Exte: Hair Extensions” was a great way to start my Sion Sono retrospective and as such recommend it and I now look forward to what comes next.  Oh, and I have to briefly mention the final kill in the film, which is ridiculous to the extreme……….only in Japan.

3 Stars.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012


It is a sad indictment on a film when you want to write a review on it two days after you have seen it and you can barely remember anything about it.  Sadly, this is the case for Takashi Shimizu’s “The Shock Labyrinth”.

Back in the late 1990’s when the horror genre was stale and consisting of mainly bloodless and uninspired slashers, a breath of fresh air came in the form of strange ghost stories from Japan. These stories seemed to hit a nerve amongst horror fans who had been clamoring for something new and exciting.  Films like “The Ring” series, “Dark Water”, “Kairo” and the “Ju-On” films suddenly became massive successes and made stars out of their directors.  Films by Hideo Nakata, Kiyoshi Kurosawa, and Takashi Shimizu all became hot property within the horror genre, and were all highly anticipated.  As usual with Hollywood, they felt the need to remake the majority of these films, and for the most part they actually did a great job.  This is mainly due to the fact that the original directors had some part in them, with Takashi Shimizu even directing both of the English language remakes of his “Ju-On” films himself under the title of “The Grudge”.   However as is always the case, what was once new ends up becoming old, and as time went on these strange stories of long dark haired ghosts started to become stale themselves.  They were now the norm, and were becoming a cliché with most of them just being variations of one another.  As such, later films by these once famous directors have seemed to suffer, and personally I stopped following them.  Recently though I felt the need to go back and revisit these director’s more recent work and while initially I was going to watch Nakata’s “Chatroom”, after watching a trailer for Shimizu’s “The Shock Labyrinth” I convinced myself that this was the better choice.

As I said in my first sentence, my memory of “The Shock Labyrinth” is rather poor but the film is about a group of childhood friends who, on a dark and stormy night, are unexpectedly visited by another friend whom they had not seen in the past decade.  The reason her visit is so unexpected is the girl, Yuki, was thought to have died in accident when the friends were kids, during an after hours visit to a funfair attraction.  The friends are stunned and quickly take the girl home to her mother, who is acting very strange, as she apparently had a mental breakdown after her daughter’s death.  After going up to her old room, Yuki is shocked when she sees a plush rabbit toy dressed in a tiara that her mother has been substituting for her, that she loses her balance and tumbles down the stairs.  Knocked unconscious, the friends rush Yuki to the nearest hospital, but when they arrive all does not seem right.  No-one is around at all, and strange things start to happen with events from both the past and the present seemingly occurring at the same time.  It isn’t long that they realize that they are not at a hospital at all, but rather the funfair attraction where Yuki died a decade ago.  Did Yuki orchestrate all of this just to get her revenge, or is something else entirely going on here?

During Takashi Shimizu’s reign as one of the masters of horror, he made a film called “Reincarnation” which was about a film crew filming a movie about a “real life” massacre.  They shot the film at the original location of the killings and just like in “The Shock Labyrinth” the past and present merge as the ghosts of the original killings come back to re-enact the crime.  Personally, “Reincarnation” is my favourite film from Takashi Shimizu, it is creepy and weird, very atmospheric and incredibly well made.  Sadly, “The  Shock Labyrinth” is none of those things, and worst of all, it makes very little sense.  The first thing wrong with the film is the terrible acting from the entire adult cast, there is not a believable moment within the film.  This is a shame because when we see scenes of these characters as kids, the children performing in these roles do an admirable job, far better than their adult counterparts, and as such the film is much more enjoyable when we are in the company of the kids.  In fact the story of the initial accident that causes Yuki’s death is probably the most interesting aspect of the film as it looks how a series of simple mistakes can result in the death of a loved one.  However, this is all destroyed by the ridiculous notion where the past and present combine, which makes it all so unbelievable.  I must admit that I am normally a sucker for a good time travel paradox (I am a big fan of both “Timecrimes” and “Triangle”), but the use of it here just made the film nonsensical.

Shimizu in the past always had an ability to make even the most simple and non-menacing things seem scary, but in “The Shock Labyrinth” he has created one of the most embarrassing moments in horror history and it involves a floating rabbit backpack.  Yes, you read that right, and while it is meant to come across as weird and disturbing, to just comes across as dumb and when that backpack passes through a wall like a ghost, I had almost had enough.  Shimizu appears to have lost the art of creating suspense and especially atmosphere.  There is almost none here.  One moment which I thought had promise was the image of a girl slowly ascending a spiral staircase.  It isn’t shown all in one moment, but rather in a number of moments, as it deals with a character remembering something.  We know once that girl reaches the top of the staircase, the reveal will be terrifying, however it turns out to be terribly anticlimactic however at least there was a hint of atmosphere here.  In “Reincarnation” when things happened in the past it was visually represented by a thick fog, and here again, Shimizu has repeated himself.  Like almost everything in “The Shock Labyrinth”, this visual element just does not work, because the film is set in an enclosed area, so a fog seems quite redundant.

It is obvious to see that I was very disappointed by “The Shock Labyrinth”, but one aspect I have yet to talk about and cant, is the fact that the film was made in 3D.  From all reports, this is another area where the film fails dismally with the effects being apparently very gimmicky and cheap looking.  Again, as I only saw the 2D version on dvd I cannot confirm or deny any of this, but felt I should mention it.  While “The Shock Labyrinth” is almost a train wreck of a film, I refuse to believe that Takashi Shimizu has lost his ability to make a good horror film.  He still has the ability to create creepy images, he just needs to remember how to accompany these with the required atmosphere to get the desired maximum result.  Since making “The Shock Labyrinth”, Shimizu has already made two other features, one Japanese and the other a return to Hollywood filmmaking.  In fact, the Japanese film I am greatly anticipating because the great Christopher Doyle was the cinematographer on it.  The only worry I have is that the film is called “Rabbit Horror 3D”, and after seeing the terrible scenes with the plush rabbit toy and backpack in this film, I just hope he has more to offer.  The American film is called “7500” and is about a supernatural event that occurs on a flight over the Pacific Ocean.  While I do look forward to these films, for the moment it pains me to say that Takashi Shimizu’s “The Shock Labyrinth” is a dud, and as such I do not recommend it. 

1.5 Stars.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012


The opening scene of Steve McQueen’s sophomore effort as director, “Shame”, is just beautiful to watch.  We follow Brandon, played by Michael Fassbender, as he sits silently on a train powerfully flirting with a young woman opposite him.  The whole thing is done with glances and knowing looks, and does not rely on dialogue, and you can see the two of them becoming more and more aroused and sexually attracted to each other.  With Harry Escott’s gorgeous score playing over the mesmerizing images created by cinematographer Sean Bobbitt, we are witness to one of the most haunting and brilliant openings to a film that I have seen in a long while.  It is powerful stuff, as we continue watching these two characters both complicit in a fantasy that only ends when the young lady’s stop is approaching.  In this moment, as she stands to leave, we are witness to a close-up of the girl’s wedding ring.  It is as if she suddenly realizes that she was coming very close to making a mistake she would regret for the rest of her life, and when the doors open, she bolts.  Brandon, who had been standing behind the woman very closely expecting a different outcome, takes after the woman.  He chases and chases her, terrifyingly in quite an aggressive manner, but ultimately he loses her.  The look on Brandon’s face is almost one of anger or despair, as if he had lost his prey.  

“Shame” is a character study on the hidden life of a sex addict and it pulls no punches.  It is emotionally raw and very painful, and its attitude towards sex is something it does not shy away from.  We witness Brandon as his addiction slowly destroys his life and those he is close to.  It is an incredibly painful film to watch, but it is also so rewarding.  McQueen draws us into Brandon’s addiction and gives us no easy path out, the sex scenes are not to titillate us, but rather inform us to exactly where Brandon’s state of mind is at, as he progressively gets worse and worse and more self destructive with each act.  

At the beginning of “Shame”, we see Brandon as a very successful businessman loved by his friends and colleagues, however once we follow him home we see a different side to him altogether as this is a man who appears to have nothing in his life except his addiction.  This is immediately seen by his décor in his apartment which is absolutely bare, there is nothing on the walls and it looks sickeningly clean, it almost looks like it hasn’t been lived in.  From here we are witness to the addiction in full flight as Brandon sleeps with prostitutes, watches online porn, and masturbates any chance he can get, however none of this seems to be fulfilling him.  He doesn’t have a girlfriend and hasn’t for ages, because he doesn’t see the point in monogamy.  Brandon seems to have his lifestyle under control, but when his younger sister Sissy arrives at his house unexpectedly, it is the catalyst to Brandon’s entire world crashing down around him.  Something from their past clearly upsets Brandon and he always reacts towards Sissy in an aggressive manner, and it is her arrival that sends him deep into his obsession until it is too late for him and he hits rock bottom.

Everything about this film is good, I don’t think I could fault any aspect of it, but it is Michael Fassbender’s brave performance as Brandon that is the heart of the film.  I am a massive fan of Fassbender’s work and I believe he is one actor that never portrays a false emotion, everything always feels so real in whatever he does, but his performance here is something to behold.  He is just devastatingly good.  When “Shame” was released there was enormous Oscar buzz for his performance but strangely Fassbender didn’t even garner a nomination.  This is just shocking and I do not understand it, because as much as I loved “The Artist”, Fassbender’s performance in “Shame” was better than anything Jean Dujardin did in that film.  Maybe it is the dark nature of the story that scared the Academy (I have the same problem with them for not nominating Kirsten Dunst for “Melancholia”, easily the best performance by a female last year), but it is a tragedy that Fassbender hasn’t been recognized for his work here.  He is particularly good in the latter scenes when you can see how much pain he is in, and he starts to realize that he associates sex with pain.  Intimacy is not something he wants and this is proven in a scene when he tries to sleep with a work colleague he knows and respects, but is unable to perform the deed.

Equally as good is Carey Mulligan as Sissy, who is another actor I am a massive fan of.  The role of Sissy is a little out of Mulligan’s comfort zone, as she normally plays quite “goody goody” roles, but Sissy has such a dark and sad edge to her, and Mulligan nails it.  It is so painful watching her trying to have a relationship with her brother, but constantly being pushed away from him, due to that issue from their past that both are obviously dealing with differently.  Mulligan as Sissy has a standout moment in the film when she sings (Sissy is a part-time singer) a rendition of “New York New York” at a club her brother is visiting.  She sings the song so slow, but it is so full of emotion (it resonates even more so once you have finished the film), it is absolutely mesmerizing.  It brings tears to Brandon’s eyes as he “sees” his sister for the first time since they were kids.  It is just an amazing scene.

What I love most about “Shame” are the little things that aren’t mentioned but alluded to, which is mainly the back-story of Brandon and Sissy.  From little comments we hear from each of them, it is safe to assume that both of them were sexually abused as kids and this is what is holding them back in their adult life.  Once Sissy appears, it forces Brandon to remember the abuse, which starts his downfall.  The way Sissy deals with the past is much different from Brandon, as she seems to suffer from depression and suicidal tendencies (as we see she has many scars on her arm), as well as feeling of distinct lack of self worth.  Brandon on the other hand, tries to forget about it by filling his time sleeping with women and watching porn, acting like he is in control of the situation.  He continues down this path, blocking Sissy from his life, until tragedy strikes, and this is one of the most painful scenes in the whole film, but it is also this scene that starts Brandon’s rehabilitation.  There are a couple of moments of dialogue in the film that seem to fit this theory, and one is when Brandon angrily tells Sissy to “Stop playing the victim!”, but the biggest moment is when Sissy leaves a message on Brandon’s phone stating “we are not bad people, Brandon, we have just come from a bad place”.  Anyway, it is just great to see a film that is so rich in story and honesty.

Overall, this is an amazing achievement from director Steve McQueen (and I must now check out his debut film, “Hunger”) and I recommend it wholeheartedly.  It is an incredibly emotional and painful experience watching “Shame” but it is a trip worth taking.  Everything is great about the film from performance, direction, cinematography and score (I loved Harry Escott’s work here), it all just works, and the amazing bookends of the film, two scenes set on trains, are amazing and couldn’t be more different.  I think “Shame” will go down as one of the classics in the future, it is mesmerizing and so richly rewarding.

4.5 Stars.