Review: 9 Songs (2004)

9 Songs (2004)

Directed by: Michael Winterbottom | 69 minutes | drama, romance, music | Actors: Kieran O’Brian, Margot Stilley, The Dandy Warhols, Super Furry Animals, Elbow, Primal Scream, Franz Ferdinand, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, The Von Bondies, Michael Nyman

In contemporary art-house film, sexual acts are portrayed more and more explicitly. Recently, as a serious actress, you could have expected the question whether you wanted to undress in front of the camera, nowadays you can be asked whether you find it objectionable to be penetrated by your opponent in front of the camera. Although it makes the shown sex a bit more lifelike, it is questionable whether that explicitness really adds anything. Perhaps the film ‘9 Songs’ can provide an answer to this.

The title 9 Songs could be translated as 9 Songs and that pretty much sums up the plot of this film. In 9 Songs we follow the young twenty-somethings Matt and Lisa. They go to concerts together and have sex together, not enthusiastic, passionate or fanciful sex but listless and saltless standard sex. Every now and then they talk about tea, condoms and Antarctica. Not much else happens and that means that the 69 minutes of ‘9 Songs’ creep by very slowly.

If director Michael Winterbottom had wanted to capture the intensity of a fledgling relationship, the question remains why he didn’t limit himself to filming faces during the sex scenes. A face has, with catastrophic exceptions, more expressive possibilities than the average genitalia. Now we get to see a lot of labia, nipples and stiff cocks, and they have very little to say. Winterbottom himself has stated that he wanted to transfer the explicit sex as you find it in serious literature to the serious silver screen. Maybe there’s something to be said for that, although you may wonder why he didn’t write a regular plot and why he didn’t hire porn professionals for the more intense scenes. In addition, you may want to see authentic sex on screen, but without authentic passion it still doesn’t amount to much. And of course you can never demand authentic passion from your actors.

The concert fragments, which alternate the bed scenes as a welcome interlude, are of reasonable quality. Image and sound are a bit messy, but the bands are all of great quality, especially Elbow and The Von Bondies impressing. But in this day and age, when every band has released at least one concert registration on DVD, that’s no reason to see the film. The same goes for the porn lover. We don’t get to see real raunchy porn and most fans of the genre will probably prefer their own environment to the immaculate seats of the arthouse.

After the end of ‘9 Songs’ there are mainly questions. Why this experiment, so obviously failed, had to be released anyway and why the young actors lent themselves to it. But above all, the question arises where the professional willingness of actors will end. Perhaps in a few years, an actress can expect to be asked whether she does not want to give birth to a child from her opponent, because of the authenticity of the resulting film child. Because it can always be crazier.

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