The PhilmGuy Reviews: 'Shame' Starring Michael Fassbender & Carey Mulligan

Shame dec1nea.jpg

Dec. 1 2011, Published 12:09 p.m. ET

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Apparently, being dead for 31 years makes you really horny. You want to claw your way out of the grave, grab a shaky handheld camera and start filming people doin’ it and doin’ it and doin’ it well.


Anything goes if you’re Steve McQueen and you’re making your zombie porn film called Shame. You’ll throw in male full-frontal nudity, female halfway-upside down nudity and shots of flesh pressed so close together you can’t tell what’s what.

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Wait, I just checked it out and confirmed that the movie is not directed by the Steve McQueen, who starred in Bullitt (1968) and died in 1980. Instead, it was made by the McQueen who was born the year after Bullitt was made and generally eschews bullitts or bullets in his movies, and instead focuses on brainy art fare, including this and Hunger (2008), which starred Michael Fassbender as an Irish Republican Army volunteer who suffered in a hunger strike.

Fassbender is back for this film, and his hunger is for booty.

Playing a well-off New Yorker who houses his brooding lounge singer sister (Carey Mulligan) and entertains a series of high-class hookers in his penthouse, Fassbender did his part to spare the movie’s costume budget by going naked most of the time. His character tries to fill the holes in his life with bitter, self-loathing sex, and his obsession creeps into all facets of his life, suffocating him in sloppy misery.

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Fassbender is so convincing in the role — especially in rare clothed moments when he comes to frantic realizations of his misery — that you genuinely ache for him. And for his flexible partners.

Mulligan, whose fragile character dances around her brother’s rage in a submissive slow burn, is equally mesmerizing.


The release of Shame is something of a holiday for film buffs, because when an NC—17-rated movie wins a bunch of festival awards and earns Oscar buzz, it gets movie geeks excited, because they know they’ve got an ironclad excuse for going out and watching porn.

Although McQueen’s camerawork is pervy and lurid, it’s anything but sexy. His sex is miserable and sad, with the nudity used to expose the raw, unfulfilled vulnerability of his characters rather than to excite.

There’s also probably a purpose for the scene in which Fassbender relieves himself in the toilet with the camera standing at attention to make sure he shakes out every last drop. Or not.

Starring Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan. Written by Abi Morgan and Steve McQueen. Directed by McQueen. Rated NC-17. 99 minutes.


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