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March 5, 2007 | by  | in Film |
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Shortbus

As the previews ended and the lights went down, I leaned over and asked the guy with me whether I had mentioned that this film contained gay sex. It seemed I had indeed neglected this detail, which, in a film like Shortbus, is quite a lot to neglect. In fact, I found Shortbus downright educational, which is really saying a lot when you have seen as many ‘art’ films as I have. The New York sex club from which the film takes its title is run by a gloriously camp shemale-cum-sex counsellor, who ironically gives lessons on how to achieve the perfect orgasm to our sex therapist protagonist, Sofia. At the same time, the up till now monogamous couple James and Jamie meet the hilariously stereotypical gay guy Ceth (pronounced Seth) and bring him into the relationship.

In fact, sex seemed to me to be the entire point of the movie, which I initially found somewhat shallow. But returning to the educational value I mentioned earlier, this self-conscious, self referencing, and at times pornographic film makes a really important point. At times, it’s not so much the sex itself which counts, as the recording, documenting, and presentation of it which does. James, in a game of ‘in the closet’, confesses to dominatrix Severin that his first sexual experiences involved hanging around the cinema after screenings of My Own Private Idaho to pick up guys. He also makes an extremely innovative (watch the film, you will see what I mean) film of himself for Jamie.

Just as Shortbus showed me entirely new sexual positions, Idaho and Jamie’s film teach the characters. I don’t mean to get too moral (and so called ‘moralists’ will disagree entirely with what I’m about to say), but societies dominated by Anglo-Saxons have completely backward attitudes to sexuality, shoving it in the back cupboard (while allowing violence to grace our screens and lives virtually uncensored). The fact that this film caused as much talk as it did demonstrates that it needed to be made. Just as it needs to be seen. Of course, students are hardly known for being prudish, so tell your parents to go. Just don’t go with them.

JOHN CAMERON MITCHELL

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