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Overall Rating

Awesome: 18.6%
Worth A Look39.53%
Just Average: 20.93%
Pretty Crappy: 20.93%
Sucks: 0%

5 reviews, 13 user ratings

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by Peter Sobczynski

"Ironically, A Bus Is About The Only Thing Not Ridden Here."
4 stars

Over the years, filmmakers running the gamut from Stanley Kubrick to the Mitchell Brothers have toyed with the idea of creating a movie that would fully integrated sequences of hard-core sexual activity within the context of a legitimate narrative structure. Last year, the prolific Michael Winterbottom attempted just such a thing with “9 Songs,” a bizarre little misfire that contained plenty of explicit action but little in the way of any discernible point. Now John Cameron Mitchell, the man who gave us “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” attempts to straddle the border between art and porn with his log-awaited “Shortbus” and while the end result is kind of a mess, it is nevertheless a strangely fascinating mess that plays like a weird head-on collision between “Eyes Wide Shut,” “Hair” and the upscale porn title of your choice.

In a literal orgy of cross-cutting, we are introduced to the central players as they go about their sexual lives. Moody Jamie (Paul Dawson) is in a long-term relationship with his boyfriend, also named Jamie (PJ DeBoy), but when we first see him, he is busy orally gratifying himself. Severine (Lindsay Beamish) is a lonely and abrasive dominatrix who has suddenly realized that the deepest relationship of her life is the one that she is currently having with an obnoxious client that she refers to as her “trust-fund muppet.” As for couples therapist Sofia (Sook-Yin Lee), she appears to have it all–a good job, a loving boyfriend (Raphael Barker) and a lusty and athletic sex life–except for one little secret detail; she has never had an orgasm before in her life. Eventually, these characters all find themselves at Shortbus, an underground performance-space-cum-orgy that, under the watchful eye of host Justin Bond, serves as an outlet for post 9/11 New Yorkers to explore their sexual and emotional horizons and limitations. (“It’s just like the Sixties, only with less hope.”)

As the story progresses, our characters proceed to do just that. After an uncomfortable first encounter, Sofia and Severine strike up a form of therapeutic friendship in which Sofia helps with Severine’s emotional problems and Severine, in return, tries to help with Sofia’s sexual problems. (Alas, Severine winds up getting the better end of the deal, in more ways than one.) Sofia also attempts to bring on the big O with a variety of unsuccessful experiments–one. As for Jamie, he suddenly becomes obsessed with bringing a third guy (Jay Brannan) into his relationship for reasons of his own and later has a fateful encounter with a mysterious stranger with his own motives for keeping the two Jaimies together.

Some of the scenes in “Shortbus” deal with heartfelt drama, the most poignant being the heartfelt monologue delivered by an elderly man who claims to be the former mayor of New York (and does bear a not-coincidental resemblance to Ed Koch) and expresses regret that he didn’t due enough about the AIDS problem while in office. Other scenes veer off into goofball comedy–at one point, Sofia dons a vibrating device with a remote control that is mistaken for a TV clicker at an especially inopportune time. And yes, there are long and graphic scenes of sexual intercourse in all its forms–straight, gay, bi, solo and a group scene that culminates it what must surely go down (heh-heh) as the most unusual performances of “The Star-Spangled Banner” ever captured on film. The proceedings are, not surprisingly, a bit uneven but I can truthfully say that it is never boring. As for the sexually-related material, some of it is erotic, some of it is tedious and some of it is quite silly. However, unlike Michael Winterbottom’s “9 Songs,” another experiment in depicting graphic sexual content in the context of a traditional film structure, Mitchell doesn’t let this material overwhelm the rest of the film.

Because it is so defiantly free-form in its structure and approach, a film like “Shortbus” falls out of the bounds of traditional film criticism–I could say that parts of the movie don’t “work” (including, ironically, the climax) but I would be at a loss to explain as to how they could indeed “work.” It is more of a happening, to use a ancient phrase, and what you think of it will depend a lot on what you bring to the proceedings. “Shortbus” is not unlike the activity that it celebrates in all its forms–occasionally touching, occasionally ridiculous, occasionally hilarious, occasionally arousing and occasionally annoying–but for the most part, you probably won’t hate yourself too much for experiencing it the next morning.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=14943&reviewer=389
originally posted: 10/19/06 23:53:47
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Toronto Film Festival For more in the 2006 Toronto Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Vancouver Film Festival For more in the 2006 Vancouver Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Chicago Film Festival For more in the 2006 Chicago Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

3/18/16 Charles Tatum Mitchell falls hard. 2 stars
2/28/11 Captain Slog Not a movie you want to watch with your mum 4 stars
5/31/10 User Name Instead of this, go for honest-to-god fetish porn. 2 stars
5/26/08 mr.mike Agree with Variety , good first half , then fades. 3 stars
2/20/07 jeff herbert strikingly beautiful though coarse interior photography. The images linger in the mind 4 stars
2/01/07 Chitta boring, 2 stars
1/30/07 elmo i luvved it 5 stars
1/12/07 David Pollastrini a porno movie masquerading as art! 3 stars
11/14/06 William Goss Oh, OH, OH!: it's magic. Surprisingly warm story of better living through sexuality. 4 stars
11/14/06 KC Visually arresting (and not just in the way you'd think) and poetic, but a little hollow. 3 stars
11/09/06 malcolm very interesting, a lot to think about 4 stars
10/29/06 Lexy Shortbus may not adhere to the script formula, but it's gotta hell of a lot of heart. 5 stars
10/14/06 Sully ...cuz you don't ever want to live in Fresno. 4 stars
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  04-Oct-2006 (NR)
  DVD: 13-Mar-2007



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