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Steve McQueen's Shame receives NC-17 rating.


over 3 years ago


I’m not sure about the Bad Lieutenant comparison or the Christ stuff. It never occurred to me that Brandon or Cissy would be a Christ-like figure.

Think about the ending—starting from Brandon finding and saving Cissy. You don’t think her bleeding wrists (as well as the scars that we see in the hospital) echo Christ’s wounds? Then when Brandon goes out in the rain (after being with Cissy in the hospital) we see him fall to his knees in anguish. I don’t know what’s going on here, but I thought the scene with Keitel in front of the crucifix. Finally, the ending with the same woman we see in the beginning. To me, Brandon’s lack of response suggests some significant change in him—that Cissy’s attempted suicide (her blood) has redeemed him in some way? That doesn’t completely fit as Brandon’s problem seems to be his inability to share his inner feelings and demons with another person. Still, the ending does suggest that he is now on the path to this—or at least some significant change. If you don’t find this reading compelling, I’m interested in hearing your take on the ending. (I also think the fact that the woman’s wedding ring is so prominent is significant. I’m not sure about the significance, yet, though.)

He is desperately trying to be close to someone but he can’t. The one person he does find some connection to, he can’t have sex with her. I thought that scene with the woman from work was one of the more painful scenes in the film (much more so than the ending, where he’s so desperate he goes to the gay sex house) because he was at his most vulnerable – he was forced to confront these demons that he was having.

For me, the critical scene is the one with Cissy on the couch (near the end). She admits that she made a mistake and caused problems for her brother by sleeping with his boss. She apologizes; and Brandon says something like words don’t mean anything; trying acting or doing the right thing (or something to that effect). Cissy also mentions the importance of family—about how family members have to help each other. Brandon says that she hasn’t helped him at all; that she’s a burden. I’ll stop there (but I’d like to watch that scene again).

Why does Brandon avoid Cissy? It’s not because he doesn’t care for her. Instead, I think he can’t deal with her openess, her ability to be vulnerable, to apologize, to admit things. So her presence is a kind of uncomfortable reminder or even a threat to him—which is tragic. They’re both in pain—and they both care for each other—but they can’t connect. (In a small way, this sort of reminds me of L’Avventura—the way men and women are so drawn to each other, but they’re so incompatible at the same time.)

What do you think happens to Brandon at the end? Where is he at?

The graphic sex didn’t bother me nor did it stand out as unnecessary. For me, it supported the world that Brandon was consumed by, where everything was stripped down, inappropriate, appropriate, sexualized, unsexualized, etc. I think it added a nice tone to the palate of the film – like adding a specific color to the set design.

Besides some of the scenes I mentioned, I’m not sure some of the other scenes were necessary or added to the film (maybe they didn’t have to last so long). I’m still not sure, though. (What do you mean by, “inappropriate, appropriate, etc.”)

Jazz – Did you like the film? Did you feel for this character? Were you emotionally engaged with his story?

My initial rating after the film was 67/100. It’s not moving up to 71/100. I’m liking in the more I think about it (and I’m still not finished). The part I like the best is the relationship between Brandon and Cissy. I also like the way the film requires the viewer to fill in the blanks (and I don’t think I’m finished doing that).


I think the graphic sex scenes were justified, but I also think if you take out the graphic sex scenes all you’re left with is a typical addiction film.

But in what way does the graphic sex enhance or support what the film is going for?

The scene that isn’t justified is the scene at the end where he’s falling down on his knees crying. I felt that scene was so cheesy it broke the immersiveness of the film.

I don’t know if it isn’t justified, but I think knowing what’s going on and why it happened isn’t very clear—or convincing. I assume that his sister almost dying (seeing her in the hospital) explains his anguish; and his predicament. But why does this attempted suicide impact him the way it does? Cissy leaves desperate messages for him at the start of the film, and he doesn’t try to see her. Does his encounter at the gay bar and later the threesome somehow affect him in a way that makes him more sensitive to Cissy?

(What is everyone’s take on why he eggs on the guy that eventually beats him up?)

I don’t see the Bad Lieutenant comparison. Shame is a far more naturalistic film, and it doesn’t address ethics and moral corruption in general, nor does it debate anything. It’s specifically about sex addiction and it’s destructive effect on one person’s life.

I think both films show us two people and their most vile and ugly parts of themselves. Both characters struggle and confront this part of themselves. Keitel finds redemption through contrition and turning to Christ. I’m suggesting that Cissy is a kind of Christ-figure. She’s there waiting for him to turn to her, but he can’t—he keeps rejecting her. But then her attempted suicide seems to transform him.

The most interesting thing in the film to me was the relationship with his coworker. He liked his co-worker, but he could only have a normal sexual relationship with her,…

But the film suggests that he couldn’t even have a normal sexual relationship with her.