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Film "Shame" brings sex addiction tale to Venice

posted 5 Sept 2011, 04:23 by Sam Mbale   [ updated 5 Sept 2011, 04:28 ]
British video artist Steve McQueen's new film starring Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan features graphic sex scenes.

VENICE LIDO, ITALY (SEPTEMBER 04, 2011) REUTERS - Up-and-coming Irish actor Michael Fassbender plays a sex addict in "Shame", a movie by British video artist Steve McQueen that is vying for the top prize at the Venice film festival.

It is the second lead role for Fassbender in a competition movie at this year's festival after his portrayal of psychoanalyst Carl Jung in David Cronenberg's "A Dangerous Method."

In "Shame", the German-born Fassbender is Brandon, a handsome, 30-something executive living in New York whose only distraction from work is seducing women, masturbating at home or in the office and looking for sex on the Internet.

The tightly controlled rhythm of his life begins to fall apart when his needy, dysfunctional sister Sissy, played by Carey Mulligan, arrives for an unannounced visit.

Her presence, and her craving for Brandon's attention, disrupt his lonely existence even further, and his only way out seems to be wandering the streets at night in search of new sexual adventures.

Fassbender, whose portrayal of Brandon was warmly applauded after a press screening on Sunday (September 4), said taking part in the film's graphic sex scenes was not easy.

"Yes (it was) uncomfortable doing the sex scenes, you just have to jump and turn really. You know, the most important thing I suppose is just to make sure that everybody involved is as comfortable as you can be. And then just sort of go for it so you don't have to do too many takes," he said.

McQueen, whose debut film was the widely acclaimed "Hunger" about the last months of Irish Republican Army activist Bobby Sands in Belfast's Maze prison, said he saw similarities between the two films.

"Hunger" also starred Fassbender in the lead role.

"They are both for me political. Even if one is obviously sexual and one is overtly political. But both in a way, it's about freedom, how someone's freedom can actually imprison them in a way, in order for them to numb a pain or what ever it is they are trying to do," McQueen said.

"I love Brandon, I love that man, you know, he's trying and it's difficult. And I think, you know he's not so far away from most of us in a way. He is not a bad person, he's a person living now with all the trappings of now. And of course it shapes you, it chains you but one is always trying of course to be better. I think as a character he is very familiar to all of us, not at all repulsive, at all," he added.

The title Shame was chosen after interviews with sex addicts and their experiences in preparation for the film. The word shame came cropping up in those interviews, McQueen said.

His career began with film-related projects, he quickly branched out to include sculpture and still photography, and his work has been displayed at the Biennale of Art in Venice.

McQueen said he saw no big differences between his artworks and his feature films.

Asked why Mulligan, who was in Australia to shoot Baz Luhrmann's "Great Gatsby", had not come to Venice to present his movie, McQueen replied:

"Carey Mulligan is in Australia and I'm very upset about that actually. I don't know Baz Luhrmann, whatever and it was out of order, really. I wouldn't do to him what he did to me 

so you know, you know, it was out of order. She should be here, never mind. Life goes on so I don't particularly, never mind, I can't discuss it too much. As far as Carey Mulligan and nudity, she's an actress, who cares, she's an actress, they do things and that's it. It's no big deal, you know," he said.

"Shame", which on Sunday evening received its world premiere in Venice, is one of 22 films screening in competition at the festival running until Saturday September 10.