John Cameron Mitchell believes that American cinema has a problem with prudishness, and he has done something about it. His second film, "Shortbus," features lengthy and nonsimulated sex scenes -- the kind traditionally found on porn videos. Indeed, "Shortbus" has been called "unquestionably the most sexually graphic American narrative feature ever made outside the porn industry" Varietybut it is also an urban comedy in the tradition of Woody Allen: lighthearted, character-driven and even saccharine.
The lubricious action, which comes in a lively and varied set of permutations, puts this way over the line for most distribs and exhibs, so while pic will be an immediate must-see for certain audiences, especially gays, in limited theatrical release, it will find its true and lasting home on DVD. Still, the polymorphous couplings are more inventive and entertaining than the emotional content. In one apartment, a young man starts playing with himself and does some contortions to orally finish the job.
Correction Appended. And not because the director was looking for big-name hotties to lure audiences into theaters. He wanted people whose sexual histories and hangups might become fodder for the screenplay.
John Cameron Mitchell is a born filmmaker. His debut film, Hedwig And The Angry Inch, was a triumph of vision on a modest budget, as well as an entirely satisfying translation of his own cabaret musical to the medium of film. For his next film, Mitchell announced, he was going to push the barriers of grown-up drama by incorporating real sex into the proceedings. The sex is, unquestionably, real: The movie opens with a montage of pumping and orgasms, lit and shot in such a way that leaves no question as to the placement of appendages and orifices.
In the crazy and no doubt kinky history of casting calls, there have surely been few like the one for Shortbus. It was all about sex, but not because the actors were coming on to the director. And not because the director was looking for big-name hotties to lure audiences into theaters.
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Shortbus is a American erotic comedy-drama film written and directed by John Cameron Mitchell. The plot revolves around a sexually diverse ensemble of colorful characters trying desperately to connect in New York City. According to Mitchell, the film attempts to "employ sex in new cinematic ways because it's too interesting to leave to porn. She comes into contact with a couple: A slightly egotistical former child star Jamie PJ DeBoy and former prostitute James Paul Dawsonthe film's other lead character.
Soon enough though, such regal introductions give way to a panoply of porno-acrobatics: freedom, in all its permutations, is indeed filling the screen, from the auto-erotic to the sadomasochistic, vertical, horizontal, and diagonal. Mitchell has perhaps completely achieved what he set out to do: to normalize pornography within a mainstream narrative, to allow it to function as simply another character trait, to display erections, spooge, and penetration without them overwhelming the people, landscape, or story. Mitchell may not be a master at slapstick often the film breaks down when his characters behave uncharacteristically broadlybut he is able to capture a time and a place as well as anyone working today.
When a longtime married couple bounces all over the bed in every imaginable position in "Shortbus," or when a particularly limber character bends into a yoga pose that proves he, um, never has to leave the house, that's all real sex, not simulated. But writer-director John Cameron Mitchell says his intention is to educate, not titillate. Unlike in porn, the sex in "Shortbus" and other recent films featuring actors in the act "9 Songs," "The Brown Bunny" is injected as a means of character exploration.