Review from the Vault: SHORTBUS (2006)

SHORTBUS (2006) 


Here is one from my vault of reviews – still have 500 of them to get off the old site, oooh this article will make it 499 🙂
This film is awesome. I would not recommend it if you are offended by full on sexual viewing, including full on penetration and masturbation scenes for males on females, males on males, females on females and a combo of the lot.

Shortbus - A John Cameron Mitchell Film
Shortbus – A John Cameron Mitchell Film

John Cameron Mitchell’s SHORTBUS explores the lives of several emotionally challenged characters as they navigate the comic and tragic intersections between love and sex in and around a modern-day underground salon. A sex therapist who has never had an orgasm, a dominatrix who is unable to connect, a gay couple who are deciding whether to open up their relationship, and the people who weave in and out of their lives, all converge on a weekly gathering called Shortbus: a mad nexus of art, music, politics and polysexual carnality. Set in a post-9/11, Bush-exhausted New York City, SHORTBUS tells its story with sexual frankness, suggesting new ways to reconcile questions of the mind, pleasures of the flesh and imperatives of the heart. 

This film has been described as pornographic with most of the sex scenes being real – yes, as in not simulated. You actually see members enter members, LOL. This is what the fabulous director John Cameron Mitchell (“Hedwig and the Angry Inch” and numerous TV shows) had to say about that:

In the old days, when you couldn’t show sex on film, directors like Hitchcock had metaphors for sex (trains going into tunnels, etc). When you can show more realistic sex, the sex itself can be a metaphor for other parts of the character’s lives. The way people express themselves sexually can tell you a lot about who they are. Some people ask me, ‘Couldn’t you have told the same story without the explicitness?’. They don’t ask whether I could’ve done Hedwig without the songs. Why not be allowed to use every paint in the paintbox?

As indicated in the DVD special features, Lee and Shanti Carson each suggested they be filmed having real orgasms rather than fake them, specifically for the final scene involving Lee and the orgy sequence involving Carson. Mitchell also participated in the latter scene, performing oral sex on a woman for the first time “as a gesture of solidarity”.

The film’s characters and story were created collaboratively over 2 1/2 years through improvisation workshops with the cast. The audition website elicited half a million hits and 500 audition tape submissions. 40 people were called in for improvisation auditions and nine actors were cast, all before there was any story in mind. Mitchell wrote the screenplay from the raw material generated by the workshops and rehearsals.

I just found this film ideal, being a gay man myself it is inspirational to see gay actors being gay people and feeling comfortable in the role. It is also fabulous to see sex issues with all kinds of people dealt with in a no holds barred way. To me this film is all about sex, love and emotion and how all these individuals while dealing with their individual issues are all similar in their own way.
Trivia: 1) To make the actors more comfortable, the director and the cameramen were stripped naked while filming the orgy scene. 2) Canadian Broadcasting Corporation was going to fire Sook-Yin Lee when they learned that she was going to be participating in a film with explicit sexual content. Several prominent individuals came to her rescue, including Gus Van Sant, Atom Egoyan, David Cronenberg and Julianne Moore, in successfully urging CBC to retain Lee as a member of their staff. 3) In Sofia’s office, the large framed characters on the wall behind her spell ‘Help Me’ in Chinese.
I thoroughly recommend this to anyone that wants a great “arty” film and is comfortable with sex. The film also has an amazing website: Shortbus Homepage


4 and a Half Pops