Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Shortbus - Movie Review

Shortbus 2006

When John Cameron Mitchell announced he was casting his latest flick with actors who were agreeable to not only appear fully naked on camera - but ready, willing and most importantly able to perform graphic sexual acts of all persuasions – we were curious. Okay, our filthy little minds were intrigued.

Since the earliest days of cinema, pornography has reared its smutty little head. Many pre-Production Code flicks titillated the audience with glimmers of breasts and buttocks. European films often pushed the envelope further in the post-WWII years. (Those smutty Europeans, God Bless Them!) And throughout the one hundred plus years of moviemaking we have seen such “breakthrough” films dealing with sensuality and nudity as “Ecstasy”, “And God Created Woman”, “I Am Curious . . .”, “Last Tango in Paris” to the recent “Intimacy”. (All directed by Europeans, come to think about it. John Cameron Mitchell may be the first American director outside of the porn industry to not be ashamed about sex. Discuss.)

Now, we admired greatly JCM’s (We’re already exhausted in typing out his entire name, let’s just stick with JCM, shall we?), earlier work – his screen adaptation of his blockbuster off-Broadway tranny musical “Hedwig & the Angry Inch”. His directorial debut was marked by visual wit and a real sense of pacing and storytelling, and a wicked sense of humor to boot!

His latest work, “Shortbus” benefits from JCM’s sense of storytelling and his flair with the camera, which is a little much in some cases but blissfully restrained in others. Unfortunately all of his hard work is for naught. This is one of the worst films this year for one simple reason. His cast.

In locating actors who were will to strip and fuck their teeny little brains out in front of the cameras, he has mistaken eagerness and sluttiness for talent. There is not one single performance from any of the horned up amateurs that one could label passable or plausible. We simply do not believe a word they utter. Not even “Harder!” or “I’m Coming!”.

From the opening montage which soars against a beautifully painted cardboard diorama of the New York City skyline, we were hoping for the best. The graphic sexuality is on display from the get go, as we careen through open windows and take a peep at the smutty going-ons. We were intrigued. Especially when we saw some humpy young thing attempt to auto-fellate himself. Ooooooo, cute and flexible we thought to ourselves. And then they opened their mouths.
Jesus Christ, people. Even amateur porn has better actors than these inept poseurs. It doesn’t help matters that the gist of the storyline can be boiled down to one aphorism.

“Take it up the ass / twat like a man / woman, and enjoy it.” Well, hell. We learned that lesson very early on in life. (Don’t ask.)

As we follow the various performers (?) through their tedious and simple lives, we were bored to tears just trying to stay awake for the next money shot. Of which there are several, but honestly at that point nobody cared.

Sook-Yin Lee portrays a sex therapist who has never experienced an orgasm. The irony is not lost; it is thrown out the window entirely. Her blank, pan fried face cranes towards the camera in a desperate attempt to look troubled. We suppose. Each expression looked exactly the same to us. Perhaps she wasn't aware the camera was actually rolling? We don't care. The effect was the same. Utter boredom.

Paul Dawson and PJ DeBoy portray two lovers, James and James. (We are not making this up, folks.) James, or rather James is concerned about their relationship. Which he should be since James or rather James . . . oh forget it. The muscular 'Mo wants to off himself because he can’t embrace true love, or take it up the ass, or some such thing. The ferret faced fagaleh is too dim to care for anything but his former childhood acting days on some lame sitcom which contained his stunningly hilarious catchphrase “I’m an albino!”, which we are told repeatedly is hilarious because it is coming from the mouth of a white queen.


Huh? What? Sorry. James and James go to see Sofia, the orgasmically challenged therapist and invite her to attend an ultra secret sex club / cabaret / encounter group / what have you called “Shortbus”.

Every Gimp that ever rode a “Shortbus” to school should sue the makers of this film for dragging their name down. The host / ess with the leastest of this “Shortbus” is portrayed by downtown scenester, Justin Bond of Kiki & Herb fame. We are officially removing the fame from his life after this performance. He apparently believes he is starring in a remake of Imitation of Life”, “I Want to Live!”, “Mommie Dearest”, “Meet Me in St. Louis and Dragonslayer all at the same time. And he clearly believes he has the leading role in each of them. He is mistaken.

Throw in a few staples of the real Downtown scene: Dirty Martini, Murray Hill and The World Famous “Bob” and you have the makings of one boring as week-old-cum-stain film. Honestly, after about twenty minutes we were forced to start fingering the asshole of the person next to us just to keep from crying from boredom. (Thank you, you kind young man. Whoever you are. We have always depended on the openness of stranger’s assholes. Although, next time you might want to "rinse the tub", if you know what we mean.)

Oh, yes, we forgot to mention the Goth wannabe S&M dominatrix whose empty heart is symbolized by her living in a storage unit. And the young dippy twit named Seth, who spells it Ceth who becomes entangled with the James twins as a final parting lovers gift before one of the James’ offs himself.

The reason we forgot to mention them is, because they just might take the record for the worst performances in a film filled with them. Seriously, if we saw these two actors in the street we would be forced to break off our heel and stab them to death with it.

John Cameron Mitchell will perhaps go on to better films, or die from some STD he caught while filming this boring ass piece of smegma. We don’t really care at this point. We wish him well in his future endeavors. And we wish to never have to be forced to sit through such inexperienced amateurish theatrics in our lives. Ever! Bless you all!

Written & Directed by John Cameron Mitchell

Sook-Yin Lee as Sofia
Paul Dawson as James
PJ DeBoy as Jamie
Lindsay Beamish as Severin
Raphael Barker as Rob
Jay Brannan as Ceth
Justin Bond as Himself
Alan Mandell as Tobias, the Mayor
The World Famous “Bob”
Dirty Martini
The Wau Wau Sisters
Murray Hill
Bradford Scobie

Cinematography by Frank G. DeMarco
Film Editing by Brian A. Kates
Original Music by Yo La Tengo
Production Design by Jody Asnes
Set Decoration by Sarah McMillan
Costume Design by Bart Mueller & Kurt Swanson
Makeup Department – Davion Edwards & Fabian Garcia


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