|Written by Noah Fleming|
|Monday, 23 April 2012|
Steve McQueen and Michael Fassbender team up for the second time to deliver an emotionally charged look at one man’s struggle with sex addiction and the pain and agony that torments him. The film is beautifully rendered in terms of writing and shot composition. The characters all complement the story and one another. The shots are framed to fit the mood of each segment.
Brandon (Michael Fassbender) is a successful businessman who spends every minute of every day thinking or acting out sexual fantasies. This isn’t shown in a pleasure manner but rather in a hauntingly addicted and psychologically tormenting way. Carey Mulligan portrays Sissy, Brandon’s sister who shows up to stay with him for a few days. Sissy is emotionally needy. She is the perfect opposite to Brandon. Brandon is shutoff whereas Sissy needs companionship. The relationship between the brother and sister is awkward and uncomfortable. It seems like the creators are trying to drive the relationship between the two in an incestuous way, but they always seem to beat around the bush (no pun intended). At the very least it seems like Brandon lusts for his sister, acting in a jealous manner when she screws his boss.
The story of “Shame” is provocative to say the least, but it is tastefully done. My hat goes off to McQueen for tackling such an issue. Certainly this film is not for the faint of heart or youngsters. The nudity is no more explicit than “Showgirls,” but if you add it up it seems like it runs more than half of the screen time. In any event, be warned that this is a sexually explicit film, not just for the imagery but also its psychological power. The NC-17 is well deserved.
The film has been transferred to Blu-ray from the original 35mm negative. The film is not a major blockbuster and thus the budget is lower than we are used to. However, that doesn’t mean the film can’t look good in high definition. On the contrary, “Shame” comes to Blu-ray with a pleasing encode. It is not the best by any means but it better than you might expect. The black levels are generally solid with shadows revealing what they were intended to reveal. Color saturation is primed for New York City, meaning they are not lush and vibrant but rather play to the unique lighting provided by the buildings of New York. This is rare though as most of the film takes place at night, or inside during the daytime. The night shots use high-speed film stock leaving the image grainy. I will point out again that this isn’t flaw as many people see it to be. This is a part of filmmaking. Would you prefer that the post-production time scrub the grain from the image leaving a flat and pasty image? I sure wouldn’t. Thankfully, the grain has been left intact. Details are not as sharp as some of the higher budget films, but then again some of the higher budget films are not as sharp as “Shame.” Overall, “Shame” comes to Blu-ray with a pleasing video transfer.
The audio is presented in DTS-HD MA 5.1. There is nothing spectacular about this audio track as it is largely driven by silence. However, the sound design team has done its job fairly well. Scenes that call for ambience of the streets have it. Dialogue is sharp and clear. And the music gets some nice clarity. For me, it is the blend that doesn’t seem to work well. Each segment is distinct and it is disrupting from one transition to another. This isn’t the fault of the sound design team. I myself could not think of another way to edit the transitions. Still, there is a missing cohesion factor. Perhaps that is the way the director wanted it. Aside from that, the surround channels are decent. They mainly contain light score bleeding or light ambience. You will never feel enveloped by the surrounds. The frequency response gets a bit crunchy in the upper-mid range during the classical music pieces. This seems to be an issue related to the original frequency filtering and not the transfer.
In terms of special features, there isn’t much of substance here. I’m sure that all fans would have appreciated an audio commentary, but alas we are stuck with these few tidbits. “Director Steve McQueen” and “Focus On Michael Fassbender” are two 3-minute pieces centered on the title person. “The Story Of Shame” and “A Shared Vision” are tow more extremely quick snippets. Lastly, there is a Fox Movie Channel Presents featurette about Fassbender and a theatrical trailer. All in all the special features section has a run time of less than 20 minutes and none of it is substantial. A DVD/Digital Copy disc is also include in the package.
“Shame” is not for everyone. It is an artistic piece examining sex addiction. You will know right there whether or not this is a film for you. Also, be warned that the film can drag quite a bit at times if you are not examining the artistic nature of the writing, photography and acting. The audio and video qualities are quite good for the level of the film. It is must own for fans and worth at least a rent for those that have some interest.