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I had read some reviews and comments from the Director before seeing "Nine Songs" so I had adapted my viewing mode accordingly. I armed myself with the kind of cold, intellectualized, high-culture glasses one uses to see relevant contemporary art. Most of the times it won't be neither an esthetically satisfactory experience nor a necessarily pleasant emotional experience but if we can see the point of the artist and if that point seems in resonance with one's curiosity and awareness of the world around, that will be good enough. From that somewhat minimalist expectations' level viewpoint, "Nine Songs" did the trick. I can see Michael Winterbottom's point. Why can a writer engage in sexual imagery with no restrictions and a film author can't do the same? There is also, I think, a honest experimental tone in all that. Something like "Let's see if it works to ask the actors to go all the way. Let's see if we can stay inside serious film making and not add an item to the increasingly inflated porn film list." I think MW managed to sail through. Yes, it can be done (but, at what a price for the actors it remains to be seen); yes, it's definitely miles away from porn. As to if this incursion into real sex in the picture is as effective as explicit sex in literature, I'm afraid that MW is no Houellebecq. Sex in the daring novels of Houllebecq retain a kind of legitimacy because in the center of the plot there is a couple where love between the two is expressing itself (although fed by some rather non-conventional sexual behavior). Sex in Sade or in other libertine writers was deliberately tabu-breaking, and liberating in a way. The extremely good quality of the writing (both in Houellebecq and Sade) is a crucial element in allowing the authors who engage in such edgy fields to get away with it. In "Nine Songs" the couple fails to touch us, there is no love there (not even the good chemistry of sexual love), and the "writing" in film terms is not that impressive. It resembles more a documentary, which in fact it is ("How to introduce explicit live sex in mainstream cinema"). We end up leaving the screening room with the frustrating sense that an opportunity was lost. Like a piece of rather cold contemporary art it challenges you, it makes you engage in argument with your friends, it makes you wish to write a comment on web site. But we enjoy good cinema, not merely relate to.Enjoyment is not there.
In the (admittedly unlikely) eventuality that someone wandered into a
cinema expecting this to be a musical, a rude shock would ensue, since
this is the most sexually explicit mainstream film ever exhibited in
Britain. Indeed the only mainstream movie I've previously seen to
compare in explicitness was the 1976 Japanese work "Ai No Corrida" ("In
the Realm Of The Senses"), but this work goes further with a scene of
ejaculation, as well as fellatio, cunnilingus and penetrative sex.
Since this is the work of accomplished British director Michael
Winterbottom ("In This World"), one cannot possibly regard this is as
pornography - besides anything else, porn features far more voluptuous
women and portrays the sex from an exclusively male point of view,
whereas the sex here is realistic (as well as real) and as
female-oriented as much as male.
The problem is that the film appears to be utterly meaningless. A British research geologist Matt (Kieran O'Brien) goes to London gigs and has sex with American student Lisa (Margot Stilley), but there is no characterisation or plot or even a script (the dialogue was improvised and is banal). Even the music seems to bear no relationship to the lovers and - except for some haunting work from Michael Nyman - is dreary gunge. Shot on low budget digital video, the picture is as grey as the subject matter and the only light-hearted aspect is the rather unsubtle joke of the (mercifully short) running time (69 minutes). Come again? No chance.
I always try to be as clean from other people's / critics opinion
before I go and check out a new film.
With Nine Songs, that is a difficult task, because it is the kind of movie everyone talks about without even seen it.
The story is as simple as it can be. It concentrates on the sexual behavior of the characters to show the birth and death of their relationship. It could have all been told around their meals, or their phone conversations. But Michael
Winterbotom chose their sex life - a quite important subject to every couple's life- to tell it all.
I only want to say that it is quite beautiful. Yes, its only sex, but as real as it can be. There is no intention on making the scenes erotic or pornographic, and the honest intimacy projected, strips down the human nature of the characters to
their very basic instincts.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I thoroughly enjoyed 9 songs, although I did benefit somewhat from
reading the synopsis beforehand. If I hadn't read it the movie would
have been half over before I figured out what it was about.
And what was it about? A relationship between a British scientist studying Antarctic ice and a crazily lovable American girl. They like to go to concerts. They like to do drugs. And they like to have sex - a lot. The sex is explicit (as real sex tends to be) and as usual whenever any one appears on film as they do in their own bedroom, there are a lot of naysayers who can't get past the nudity to see the beauty of the film.
If you read a bad review of this movie, it was probably written by a blue nosed censor who doesn't get much, if any, sex themselves and hates to see anyone else enjoying it.
The couple in this movie are most assuredly enjoying their sexual relationship; the chemistry between them is great to see and the concert footage in between is a nice punctuation to the movie, with well known contemporary bands doing live music.
The best part about this movie, for me, was the reality of the relationship. Several reviewers apparently have not had enough relationships that they recognize this. Why did the couple get together? Because they were attracted to each other, why else? Why did they split up? Because the American girl was going home and the gravity of the relationship wasn't enough to hold her. These things happen in real life, all the time, so why not depict them on film? Everything doesn't have to have a detailed explanation.
I thought this movie was an excellent depiction of the sort of short term relationship people tend to get into; not leading to a long term commitment, but forming the kind of memories that you look back on fondly years later.
This is a love-it-or-hate-it film, as reflected by the deep divisions
in critical response. It is a serious piece of film-making but there
are two major components that you may love or hate - extreme sexual
explicitness and modern rock music.
The rock music is mostly from live concerts. If the music that people pogue and stage dive to is not for you, you probably won't want to sit through an hour of it (check the soundtrack listings - Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Von Bondies, Salif Keita, Franz Ferdinand, Primal Scream, Dandy Warhols, Goldfrapp, Super Furry Animals, Elbow - do you recognise/like a few of them?) The sexual explicitness is a matter of personal taste - and tastes in sexuality vary a lot. If you can identify or empathise to some extent to this 20-some young couple and feel comfortable seeing how their relationship develops through sex and rock music you may, as I did, find it beautiful and intimate. The lovemaking is so natural that it is in sharp contrast to the fictionalised and very artificial sex scenes in mainstream films. There's also some wonderful symbolism in contrasting shots and details of Antarctica (connected to the daytime work of the main character). It's also a triumph British cinema that the Censors have allowed it to reach mainstream cinemas uncut.
How does a modern man recall his last 'love' relationship? In this
case, by the songs they shared together. The man in question is a
glaciologist who's airborne research over Antarctica spurs a
chronological series of memories broken up by nine LIVE concert
segments. To sum up the simplistic plot line of the flashbacks, the two
young lovers meet at a rock concert and then each major sex scene at
their Islington flat is punctuated with brief concert segments (shot
guerrilla-style with the couple in attendance).
Director Michael Winterbottom ("24 Hour Party People") has actually done Hollywood (and Planned Parenthood) a service by taking out the 'fake' lovemaking scenes audiences have grown accustomed to and replaced them with REAL sex, actual condoms IN USE, and a female (or male) orgasm that hasn't been staged for dramatic effect.
Seriously, the porn industry should take note if this film has any commercial success in the USA, because for my money I'd rather have my human sexuality nicely photographed, lit well, and true-to-life than filled with emotionally forced bad acting, flat lighting, and fake orgasms (with even faker breasts). Name one porn movie with fantastic helicopter shots of Antarctica's icy surface with a science lesson tossed in too. Nada.
Best of all are the honest, first-rate acting performances from both Brit acting veteran Kieran O'Brian ("24 Hour Party People") as 'Matt', the very lucky older guy (age 31), and 'Lisa' (Margo Stilley), the young American waif, who gets picked up at a rock concert one night at London's Brixton Academy.
In England, where this film has already been released there was quite a brouhaha as first-time movie actress Margo Stilley (age 21) supposedly tried to have her name removed from the credits. Luckily, the scathing reviews by the British press have worn off and the film is being released in the USA with Margo credited and NO NC-17 rating.
Although a first-time principle actress, Margo's performance is noteworthy in that her improvised dialogue not only rings true but it speaks to the neuroses of many young 'wild' females way beyond the Paris Hilton experience. She even creates a little comic relief when confronting her 'boyness' in the bathroom mirror.
In retrospect, I don't think this film has the artistic merit of last year's ode to eroticism (Bertolucci's "The Dreamers"), but director Michael Winterbottom does make a compelling argument for taking sex scenes to their natural conclusion. Adult audiences are gravitating more and more to NC-17 rated movies (re: "The Brown Bunny," etc.) and it may be time for local cinemas (and Hollywood) to grow up. Hey, if Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt really are lovers then why couldn't they have 'condom sex' on screen for a change, and how much more of an impact would that have on college-age adults practicing 'unsafe' sex than thousands of hours of PSA's and sex-ed classes! Even if sex on the big screen isn't your thing, this film is so pure in its intentions it's practically a 'date movie' (except blind dates). Even the ladies will enjoy the sensitive approach to the material as the sexual exploits build from cunnilingus to some mild S&M, eventually progressing to the de rigeur 'cum shot'. As I said, it's an ADULTS ONLY experience, but one that might rekindle the sexual romance in your own relationships and give you a forum to converse with your partner about a sensitive subject (in America anyway).
The fuss in the media, and by word of mouth, led me to want to see this
film. I have always had a deep interest in censorship, be it of film,
music, art or any freedom of expression.
I approached this film with the hope that it had been passed by the censors because it had some kind of beautiful message or story to tell. That the overall worth of the film had outweighed the controversy of the sexual content and it was such a well made film that to deny it a release would have been an injustice to film making.
But I was deeply disappointed. If you take away the explicit content of the film, it has nothing. It says nothing. It goes nowhere.
It has no particular storyline or insight to offer, the sex scenes are all it has to carry it. Without that it becomes nothing but a collection of badly filmed concert footage. As for the musical artists chosen, they are like the film..for twenty-somethings who think they are being daring and are pushing the boundaries, but are walking the safest path right down the middle of the road.
The characters are not developed at all, and what you do see and learn of them makes them instantly unlikable. Neither are they particularly attractive- which makes the sexual content unpleasant to watch. It may be (slightly) graphic but those people watching only for the hope of a sexual thrill will also be very disappointed.
I would much rather have seen this film without the graphic sexual content, and a more satisfying storyline exploring the relationship between the couple. As it is, it just lets you down in all areas.
It is put forward as a unique insight into a couples love making, but comes across as the cold, functional sex of a one night stand. There is not the passion, or the intensity, of a genuine loving relationship.
The film needed to be longer, to give time to develop the characters or some kind of story and give the viewer something to grasp. The sixty six minutes running time leaves you thinking "is that it?" and wanting a refund- both of the money paid for the film and the hour of your life you just wasted. It will remain notorious for its sexual content, and continue to appeal to those who have not seen it. Once seen, it loses any appeal.
This film is most likely to end up being passed around schools by thirteen year old boys and skipped to the sex scenes, or more likely the sex scenes downloaded from a peer to peer network.
I suppose the whole film does have one thing, an element of realism. It is like watching a very expensively filmed home video but as everyone knows other peoples lives may seem interesting at a distance, but close up they are just as boring as your own.In this case, dull is an understatement.
Maybe that is the point..but if this film does have one, it is very cleverly disguised.
I really wanted to like this film. I really wanted it to be the ground breaking, brave, work of artistic genius that the media promised.That this was the film that would open the gates for a more honest era of censorship.It isn't any of those things, the most interesting thing about it is the question of how it was given a certificate..the biggest question is why bother making it in the first place?
It seems strange to have such an affection for a film that is so flawed
and fails in so many areas. Either way, I really really enjoyed Nine
Songs, a relationship drama told strictly through sex. First, we'll
list the failures. The acting of our female lead is a bit suspect and
makes her, in the end, unlikable. The photography, although intimate
and immediate, suffers from it's DV quality and makes you wonder how
beautiful this film could have been shot with the eye of perhaps...
Lars Von Trier's dogma lense. Most importantly, the movie relies on two
ingredients that in the end prove a bit useless. We are reliving the
story in memory via the male lead as he travels through Antarctica.
Although it is an interesting metaphor and a captivating landscape, it
seems almost entirely unnecessary. We hear him say "you can be
clostraphobic and agoraphobic all at the same time, much like the
bedroom." Secondly, and most important, the live music is
inconsequential, although good. The actual image quality is low, the
songs play for too long, the lyrics apply to the narrative not at all,
and the bands all flirt with one style (Michael Nyman being the
exception). I must say, there is an outstanding version of "Jacqueline"
by Franz Ferdinand.
Now let me tell you where the film succeeds. We experience two young, naive, selfish personalities infatuated with one another, and the idea of one another. This is expressed in the most immediate and intimate fashion: SEX. We see two people in the prime of a relationship, in which the most sex is had, and as much as possible, however possible, symbolizing favors, trust, forgiveness, revenge, and all the other facets of a relationship. These scenes also succeed because of their length, the total lack of music, and the director's willingness to let them exist without explanation. Although these two characters are not even particularly likable or explained to us, we end up feeling as if we've shared something very deep with them, solely based on the extent to which we are asked to hang with them throughout the long and graphic and no holds barred sex scenes.
It may seem sick, but by the end, as a graphic fellatio scene ends with actual ejaculation, you have become so acclimatized to this topic, and it being our main source of communication, that there is an almost unspoken dialogue between all parties. Instead of feeling offended, we feel love for the privacy of the moment, for the trust and sharing that happens there. Instead of feeling aroused, we feel compelled by the motives, interested in the roles played and mindful of the moment shared.
By asking that you step into a theater, with total strangers, and watch many graphic sexual encounters, many unexplained and without the usual Hollywood ramp-up, you have signed over a certain amount of control and comfort as an audience-member, which in the end, offers a truly unique experience of the "love story". When all is said and done, "Nine Songs" evoked a truly unique and loving response from me, in spite of the fact that as a film, it fails in many areas. I would not say that many films should be made like this, but I would say that it is flirting with a new form of love story that is raw, beautiful and in the end, no matter how many times it fails, honest by the sheer default of it's topic.
I came to this Michael Winterbottom film from one of his previous
efforts starring Samantha Morton and Tim Robbins. I had never heard of
him as a director and when Sight and Sound (the house magazine of the
BFI) did an article on him I thought he was worthy of attention.
Another reason for seeing this film was the promise of being able to watch a couple having actual sex and no merely faked orgasms and suggested oral sex either and no pornography. I quite wanted to be reminded of the reasons why two people can get together because of what they have in common.
Winterbottom's film is not pornography at all. It is merely a study of a relationship seen through the context of real sex (what nearly all of us have experienced once we are a certain age (18+ usually) and are not bound by religious considerations ie the Catholic priesthood) and popular music. That's all. And the cast are two everyday folk. They are not artificially enhanced porn actors or glossed up dolls for the benefit of the viewer. It is a very much warts and all film, although I have much admiration for Winterbottom to persuade any actor to show the camera (and thus the audience) his real erection and later orgasm.
Once the novelty of watching real adult sex wears off, however, there is little else left and that's the real disappointment of this film. Nevertheless it is an adult movie and some may enjoy it.
This film stinks of pretension, as do all of the positive reviews I
have read about it.
I'll make my points short and sweet.
1. If I have to obtain external info (a synopsis, a forward, a cast and crew interview, or a commentary) to understand the film maker's intentions, the film as a medium has failed.
2. If this is supposed to be a story... it is lost.
3. If this a myopic of human sexuality, I can possibly except that as the reason I just wasted 67 minutes of my time. But sex is not love, and I knew where to put it before I left grade school. I didn't need two college age students to show me.
This film is not about relationships- its nothing more than a human equivalent of the Wild Kingdom- the mating rituals of homo sapiens. Unlike the Wild Kingdom, and just like porn, you actually get to see the film's "climax." I am not a prude by any stretch. But there is no Bohemian facet to this film. It is porn plain and simple. No matter how many college rock songs you use to whitewash it, strange cuts, melancholic piano tracks, or fancy words you try to pimp it with, you have amateur porn on your hands. Porn with small breasticles.
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