Friday, August 31, 2012

9 Songs

To get back in the habit of regularly making movie posts, I opted to try Christianne Benedict's Netflix Roulette. Instead of selecting a film totally at random from a specific genre, I simply selected one of the films in my NetFlix queue. I have all sorts of random things in there from fairly recent films to classics, television series, foreign films, documentary, really anything that sounded interesting and as a result, there are hundreds of films listed there. This frequently makes chooseing one a time consuming task, so I liked the idea of using a random number generator to select something. If I were unlucky enough to land on a television series, I would simply generate another random number.

Well, the lucky film was Micheal Winterbottom's 9 Songs.  

One of my not so secret cinematic interests is in the depiction of human sexuality on film and 9 Songs has a tremendous amount of graphic on-screen sex. Winterbottom has created a film that shows Matt, an English scientist, and American student Lisa, go to rock shows and have sex, but distilling their interacts down to only sex and music, what does this communicate? And with the limitations on what Winterbottom decides to show, what can one understand about the relationship that is depicted? 

9 Songs is an intriguing study on the use of actual sex in film, but isn't satisfying as a cinematic experience. The film opens with shots of the cold, barren landscape of antarctica as Matt narrates and the only time in the film that any information about Lisa is given. Matt tells us at the very start that "Lisa was twenty one, beautiful, egotistical, careless, and crazy." So this bias is implanted right from the start that Lisa is cold and selfish, when Winterbottom could have let the viewer decide who Lisa and Matt are through watching their interactions and their love making. This is what I was expecting from a film that borrows from cinema verite asking the viewer to understand that Matt and Lisa's relationship began at a concert and the reason that the film is structured as sex intersperced with concert footage is that their relationship is essentially composed of hookups after shows. 

Although, maybe the film was never a love story but a personal journal about her, "When I remember Lisa, I don't think about her clothes, or her work, or where she was from, or even what she said. I think about her smell, her taste, her skin touching mine." So perhaps, 9 Songs is less about a relationship and more about what is left behind after a relationship is over. Looking at 9 Songs from this perspective feels more honest, but the film still seems incomplete.

And then there is the sex. How does the decision to film a couple having sex impact the film? Does knowing that the sex is real add anything? In most scenes, it did not, other than to cause me to hope that the actors liked each other. While the entire film was composed of sex scenes, 9 Songs never came across as particularly pornagraphic, or even erotic. Again, this film is strangely cold, with one exception. Lisa describes a scene, and interaction between a man and a woman during cunilingous that is absolutely rivitening to watch. The rhythm of her breath is dictated by what she is feeling and provides a fascinating cadence to the story she is telling. Just for those few minutes, I was glad to have seen this film, but overall, 9 Songs is more like an idea that has never quite come to fruition than a complete film. And interesting idea, but ultimately an unsatifying one.