Review: Short bus (2006)

Short bus (2006)

Directed by: John Cameron Mitchell | 102 minutes | drama, comedy | Actors: Raphael Barker, Lindsay Beamish, Justin Bond, Jay Brannan, Shanti Carson, Paul Dawson, PJ DeBoy, Sook-Yin Lee, Yolonda Ross, Rachael C. Smith, Peter Stickles, Daniela Sea, Fast Ali

Initially, it’s hard to maintain an analytically sound perspective when watching “Shortbus,” the sexually explicit film from the director of the acclaimed “Hedwig and the Angry Inch.” It is difficult to keep seeing the forest through all the trees, or rather: the many penises and breasts. But the film is not one long, shocking gimmick with penetrations and masturbations of the characters visible to everyone. There are also some emotional, and sometimes funny, stories told in between; stories that are inextricably linked to the sexual acts in the film.

So “in between” is not the right term. The sex in the film is an essential part, or synonymous with, the stories told. Objections about dysfunctional sex or unnecessary exposure can therefore immediately disappear under the carpet. The only question now is whether the stories are worth enough in terms of content to keep the film interesting. Are we dealing here with valuable drama or is the controversial, sexual form ultimately the main draw?

The answer lies somewhere in the middle. At first glance, the problems seem unspectacular. A sex therapist who can’t have an orgasm herself? It’s ironic and makes for funny moments in the film, but it can’t be called an earth-shattering problem. This point of view changes somewhat when she talks about her sexual experiences among a group of women in the Shortbus club. She hardly seems to enjoy it, even saying that during sex with her husband, she feels like someone wants to kill her, then smiles to get through it. Especially after the (exaggerated) paradisiacal descriptions of orgasms of the other women, who experience it, for example, as the release and shooting of creative energy and the emergence of universal peace, her explanation is quite poignant. After this outpouring of Sofia, when she is at her most emotionally vulnerable, a Polaroid of her is shot by Severin, who does this to all the people she meets, as part of an artistic project. Severin, a dominatrix, also has her problems: she doesn’t know how to maintain a valuable relationship and falls for the wrong types. Then there are James and Jamie, two men who want to open their relationship to new impulses, aka contacts. You can sense that this is asking for trouble, and the complications that arise therefore cause little involvement with the viewer, although James’ mental breakdown towards the end of the film is dramatically effective.

While some of the sub-stories get dramatically more interesting on closer inspection, Sofia’s part becomes more captivating when you see it as an exploration of herself – she’s desperately trying to discover her own body, and by extension, her own mind – it’s mostly the humor that makes the keeps the film attractive. There’s Sofia who frantically fiddles with a vibrator on the kitchen floor, but has to keep moving back to a more comfortable position, and finally has to stop because she’s too distracted by her husband masturbating in turn in the living room. is at internet porn. Sofia also goes to the Shortbus Club with her husband and, as an experiment, brings a vibrating egg that her husband has the remote control for, which he can use whenever he wants “contact” while standing on the other side of the room. is located. The best man, however, puts the thing in his back pocket and uses it like that, without realizing it, every time he sits down somewhere or changes position, with all the funny consequences that entails. Both dramatic and comically effective is the moment Sofia is talking to Severin as the egg suddenly “goes off”. The latter then sits on top of Sofia, and asks her not to move, because Severin is very sensitive and this is already enough to bring her to a climax, while, unfortunately, it does not have this effect on Sofia. And what about a men’s threesome, where the American national anthem is enthusiastically sung with the noble parts of the gentlemen as microphones? Once you get used to all that male nudity in the picture, you can’t help but see the humor in this.

The film isn’t as deep as it could have been. For this, the problems are not compelling enough for a long time and we do not get a broad enough view of the characters. The film does offer a nice mix of drama and humor, and has a daring form and brave acting from its non-professional actors. Sook-Yin Lee admirably fulfills her role as an emotional anchor and representative of the central theme in the search for her own sexuality. ‘Shortbus’ will certainly not appeal to everyone, but for the “adventurous” viewer, the film can be an interesting experience.

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