24 Feb

Shortbus — written and directed by John Cameron Mitchell. Sex Comedy. Various souls with sexual blocks end up at a sexual retreat.  101 minutes 2006.


Well, sex is fun! That sure is demonstrated with great gusto here — a quality I do not find pornography itself to possess. The notion, however, that sex leads somewhere, that it by itself can open up connection to another, which is a theme here, is false. Each of the main characters has a sexual hang up, each one is stymied. And I do not quite believe that the resolution of each of these hang-ups is real. What I do believe is real is the director himself entering into the orgy scenes but not being able to perform. Voyeurism is a form of participation, yes, but his constraint, or his wish, by making the film, to break restraint, is perhaps the real truth here. John Cameron Mitchell directed Hedwig And The Angry Inch before this and The Rabbit Hole after it, which proves that the word genius does not mean one has a genius for everything. This story of sexual resolution through the ministrations of a sex salon is much closer to his polemic than, let’s say, his directing a June Allyson movie would be. Great directors are great because they have their natural affinities; Raoul Walsh directs quirky action pictures with stories that smash right through. The word métier does not mean profession; it means a particular inner and personal execution of that profession. As to Mitchell’s gay polemic, I do wish we could all live Rabelaisian lives. Prudery, though, is natural. Sexual repression isn’t. Uninhibited sex is natural. Religious sexual stricture isn’t. Foreskins are natural. Circumcision isn’t. Is any of that true? What is curious, above all in this picture, is that each of the main characters has a sexual hang up, but that none of them relate it to the fact that each one of them has the wrong job or no job. What is the relation to sexual obsession, either anorectic or satyriasic, and actual calling? The film is unconscious in the matter. All praise to the director, though, and the whole cast, orgy and all. I was particularly moved by Paul Dawson’s acting; I believed him every moment. Don’t rent this picture, though, and pretend you don’t know beforehand that in it there are all sorts of sexual scenes shown, sans fig leaf. It is not a picture to be watched by hypocrites.


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