23 December 2011

Review: Shame

Genre: Drama

Moving from visceral state (see Hunger, 2008) to self-conscious emotion, writer director Steve McQueen again deals us a blow through fortitudinous actor Mr. Fassbender, no stranger to A Year in Film (see the 2008 nominees for Best Actor here). Invoking parts of Mr. Bale's American Psycho (American Psycho, 2000) and of Mr. Wilson's baleful Mormon (Angels in America, 2003) and supplying a palpable tension of his own, Mr. Fassbender owns this film and is heartbreaking in it. His struggle is in turns arresting for its fealty and moving for its commonness, and it is the tension that results from these extremes, that allows him the strength to support the weighty material well.

Mr. McQueen's touch here seems a lot lighter than it was onto Hunger. Whether the change have derived from a complete confidence within one's actor now or from a sensitivity to the much greater proximity of the present material to its audience, the effect is understatement. Strings of minimalism run through the film, voiding color and connection unless when absolutely necessary. So reticulated a set of pieces, the film at times becomes formalistic, though never formulaic; it presses itself occasionally uncomfortably against the tight glass that it chooses as its container. This pressing is its only detractor. A loosening of the reigns, an allowance of penetration by the outside world, may have helped digest the isolation into devastation that Brandon, Mr. Fassbender's lead, experiences.

I give these comments with the greatest care, not sacrificing honesty, because I do admire the work - very much so. I only wish that it could have sustained the transcendence it did achieve, when the outside world was allowed inside in its climactic sequence of red and Goldberg.

Grade: B+

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