Shortbus - Get On It
| Much has been said about the sex in John Cameron Mitchellís new film Shortbus. Hopefully all that talk wonít take away from the power of this incredible little film. However, one can not discuss the film without referring to the sexuality due to our cultural limitations around how to handle viewing sexuality on screen.
So, letís talk about sex.
Yes, Shortbus features performers having real sex that is graphically depicted. There is onscreen penetration and ejaculation and the combinations of sexual partners is diverse and numerous. The numbers of partners involved in the sex scenes ranges from one to more than you can count. However, this is not pornography. The sex in Shortbus is never presented in a manner that titillates or exploits. Shortbus accomplishes the seemingly impossible but actually using sex to advance the story or give insight into the characters.
In fact, it would be hard to imagine anyone becoming aroused or stimulated from watching Shortbus (not that such a thing would make the film bad or good in and of itself). The camera doesnít linger on the acts. It isnít lit in a flattering matter. Sure most of the actors are fairly pretty, it just seems that the sex is background to whatís really going on in each scene.
The consequences of sex are explored. The characters actually feel complex emotions during their encounters and react in complicated ways. Sometimes it is joyous and sometimes itís sad or angry. Most of the time there is some of all of the above. There are conversations and communications going on. As anyone who has seen porn knows, it is very much not real. Itís not about what sex really feels like. Shortbus actually gets there and looks at all the messy, painful and even wonderful details.
Shortbus is really more about relationships than about sex. It about connecting and not connecting, loneliness and reaching out. So many of the scenes are exquisitely beautiful, painful and lovely. The scenes without sex are often even more meaningful.
Mitchell has created a smart and touching film. Heís also created a film thatís beautiful to watch. His actors are often stunning but not always in a model-type manner. His film, framed by a magical recreation of NYC that gives the film a fable like quality, is also beautifully shot and wonderful to look at.
Most impressively, the movie is remarkably funny. There is so much absurd about real sexuality and the film is able to get some real laughs from the situations. Itís the kind of humour that comes from a very honest place and not about just being silly. Often laughter is a reactionary response to our discomfort around sex but Shortbus uses the humour to help us relate and bring us into the sexuality. It makes it real. Instead of disconnecting us, it makes us more connected.
The only complaint is that the cast isnít always up to their roles. The film requires them to be more than just a pretty face and there are a few that arenít able to pull it off. Fortunately, most of the leads get to a very honest place but some of them take a little longer to get there than others.
Overall, Shortbus is a very moving and inspiring film. Itís beautiful and touching. If you can be mature enough to handle it, you are in for a very beautiful experience.