Shame Blu-ray Review
I’m always interested in film as art though I rarely find art-house films an entertaining diversion. I have also found as I have aged that dramas, in general, aren’t the movies where I spend my entertainment dollars. Incredible and dynamic as they may be, even at their most authentic, dramatic movies just aren’t as fun as I recall thinking of them when I was younger. But there are some that are worth viewing simply for the power and emotion that is portrayed on screen. SHAME is one of those movies.
SHAME is the story of Brandon Sullivan (Michael Fassbender, X-MEN: FIRST CLASS). On the surface, Brandon seems to have everything working for him: a good job where he is successful, a beautiful apartment and nice things. But we are immediately thrust directly into the heart of the film – Brandon’s sex addiction. SHAME is essentially the story of a man who is trying desperately to cling to his life as everything crashes down around him. Adding to the pressure, though, is that Brandon is completely unable to do anything about it. By the time we join him, Brandon is completely controlled by his disease, to such a degree that he completely unhinges when his sister appears out of nowhere to stay with him.
Brandon’s sister, Sissy (played by the cute Carey Mulligan of last years’ DRIVE) is another enigma. Brandon clearly feels responsible for his sister – but this is not a story of love. It is more like a sad understanding. A lounge singer, Sissy is certainly not without fault but she is also kind of the universal force in the movie – why can’t her brother care for her? Why does he seem so unfulfilled when he seems to have so much? Whatever trauma affected the Sullivan household, it firmly took hold of Sissy as well. Brandon is a master manipulator but Sissy was given none of these charms. Instead she believes she is without worth so she constantly clings to anything that makes her feel wanted, needed (including a flirtation with Brandon’s boss which quickly escalates).
Brandon’s Spartan existence had been carefully cultivated to keep his addiction in check, essentially wake, sex, work, sex, eat, sex, sleep. This probably sounds like a fantasy to many men, but in truth his home and his addiction are a prison which keep him from ever experiencing joy. When Sissy opens his computer and finds the private sex chat that he has purchased, he decides he has to destroy all evidence of his problem (and there is a LOT of evidence). Instead of feeling liberated, however, Brandon becomes further enslaved by his disease – seeking sex anywhere he can find it. As difficult as this is to watch, this is where the movie really succeeds. Fassbender beautifully portrays a man incapable of being satiated, of loving, of finding his way out.
Even when he gets his fix (which is what these encounters are… they are not ‘sexy’), Brandon is immediately looking for the next one. It is downright painful to see this family’s descent – a credit to Fassbender’s and Mulligan’s talents. [Fair warning – this movie is rated NC-17. While I think this may be a bit extreme, there is a good deal of graphic sexual content, language, and nudity. If these things bother you steer clear.]
Video: (1080p, 2.35:1 Widescreen) SHAME is beautiful and intimately presented, so much so that it feels like a raw nerve in some moments.
Audio: (English 5.1 DTS Master Audio) The sound, score, dialogue, and mixing are presently flawlessly on the SHAME Blu-ray, bringing you fully into the story and immersing you in the world.
Focus on Michael Fassbender (03:01) The gifted actor talks briefly about the role of Brandon, working on SHAME, and crafting a real character in today’s world.
Director Steve McQueen (03:09) A similar featurette, this one is essentially a quick interview with McQueen featuring many of the same clips of SHAME. It is interesting to think about sex as Brandon’s pacifier for the world…
The Story of SHAME (03:19) Cast and crew give additional insights. It is frustrating that with the length of these special features being so short they re-use SO MUCH. There are some neat tidbits about SHAME here if wade through what you’ve already heard.
A Shared Vision (02:38) Fassbender and McQueen work well together and this trust is obvious in SHAME’s effortless presentation of a terrible, awful, real thing. They talk about teaming up again.
Fox Movie Channel Presents: In Character with Michael Fassbender (05:15) An interview that was presented on the Fox Movie channel, this features clips from SHAME used in the above special features (presented in Standard Definition) but includes a much more in-depth discussion of Brandon from Fassbender. SHAME simply would not work with a lesser actor.
This Blu-ray package includes SHAME on DVD, a Digital Copy of the film, and the Theatrical Trailer (01:47).