Thursday, August 25, 2005

9 Songs (2005)

Sometime in 2004, Michael Winterbottom decides to make a film with hardcore, unsimulated sex. Michael Winterbottom thinks this will get his film closer to certain truths about relationships that get avoided by most mainstream films as well as bring some credibility to material generally only dealt with in stroke flicks. Michael Winterbottom, it turns out, might have a point. The sex scenes are significantly more explicit than other films even dare to dream of, but what's important is that because of this explicitness, they also have an unforced intimacy that both heightens the eroticism of the affair (moviegoing is, after all, essentially group voyeurism) and allows us, by seeing these two characters at their most naked (in multiple senses of the word), to understand these characters on a closer level. It's a good thing Winterbottom's assumptions were correct, too, because aside from the sex (and the concerts from which the film derives its title), we're given almost nothing about these characters. They like to fuck and listen to live music. Occasionally they do drugs, have pleasant chats, fight, sleep, etc., but mostly it's sex and music. Which, by the way, is exactly as it should be. Right from the beginning, we're set up to expect a memory piece. This is a guy flashing back on a relationship that has ended. He's charting the rise and fall of she and him through that which mattered to him. He tries to let us in on why this girl mattered to him, and he does it through the most primal means possible -- sex and music. (Is there, ultimately, anything else to life?) The film's not perfect (it feels a bit extended even at 69 minutes, and the Antarctic stuff is a classic case of Trying Too Hard), but it does what it has to. It's a charming and ultimately poignant tale of a man looking back on happier times, plus it has some pretty hot sex. And it ends with Black Rebel Motorcycle Club playing "Love Burns," which is of course also exactly as it should be.

Grade: B


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