December 19th, 2006
Shortbus is sexually explicit in the extreme, but somehow not erotic. Featuring sex acts of every kind, with an emphasis on gay sex (including an act of auto-fellatio), in the end it is like going skinny-dipping with your friends. Sure you’re naked but it isn’t sexy.
The mileu is a New York club called Shortbus. The people are fey and beautiful, with a knowing Andy Warhol smirk. Very cliquey, very brittle, very uptown. (”Shortbus” is a childhood term for the bus the special kids ride - definitely not the regular bus.)
This film stars Sook-Yin Lee from CBC radio as a couples counsellor who has never had an orgasm. I like Sook-Yin on the radio. I don’t want to watch her having sex.
I don’t like this film very much. I don’t think it’s anywhere near as smart and daring as it thinks it is. That being said, it also isn’t as bad as I’ve probably made it sound. Somehow through all the joyless coupling, the film manages to remain friendly and optimistic. It has an idea it wants to explore. It’s just that the idea isn’t very interesting.
You might say I’m not the right demographic for this film, but who is? What exactly is the genre? It’s not porn and it isn’t a date movie. It’s not very funny, it isn’t romantic, and as drama it’s embarrassing. I think it’s the kind of movie that each generation discovers and then gets tired of: the conventions of hard-core pornography employed in a mainstream film. (My generation had “I am Curious, Yellow” and “Last Tango in Paris.”)
Updated Jan.1, 2007: Anybody who thinks this is a good film should watch “La Dolce Vita” (1961), by Federico Fellini. Here is a screenshot of Anita Ekberg and Marcello Mastroianni in a convertible. They don’t take off their clothes or have sex but they are twice as sexy as anybody in Shortbus. (They do jump into a fountain.)
Trivia fact: the character in La Dolce Vita called Nicolina is in fact Nico, of “The Velvet Underground and Nico,” playing herself. Here she is with Marcello Mastroianni.