9 Songs

         Billed as “the most sexually explicit film in the history of
 British cinema,”
9 SONGS arrives on American shores after causing
 a stir at Cannes in 2004 and its theatrical release in the United
 Kingdom in 2005. Undoubtedly, there will be much debate about
 whether this is an art film or a porno. Perhaps, it’s a little of both.

         The film charts a few months in a sexual affair between
 free-spirited American Lisa (Margo Stilley) and London glaciologist
 Matt (Kieran O’Brien), who serves as narrator. As the film opens,
 Matt is flying over Antarctica and recalling his year-long affair with
 Lisa.  The geography of the ice on the continent somehow reminds
 him of her. Like in most romance films, the couple “meets cute,”
 in this case at a Black Rebel Motorcycle Club concert at Brixton Hall
 before heading back to his apartment for sex.

         Winterbottom allowed the actors to improvise much of the
 film dialogue, so that may be why most of it is less than
 memorable. (When Lisa isn’t inducing her lover to performer
 “faster,” she’s spouting lines like “Sometimes I want to bite
 you.” Matt’s narration is only a touch more memorable.)

         The film is framed around a series of nine concerts (hence
 the title), most of which are rock shows that included bands
 like Franz Ferdinand, the Dandy Warhols (who are show to better
 effect in the documentary
DiG!), the Von Bondies, Elbow and
 Super Furry Animals. Oh, and Michael Nyman is thrown in for
 good measure. These sequences, shot on digital video, look
 muddied and distorted.

         After a while, the sex scenes become tediousl. The actors
 and Winterbottom seem to be trying to vary things – they do it
 standing up, they do it in a bathtub, they tie one another up –
 but after a while the novelty wears off. I suppose that's the
 director's way of letting the audience know the couple also
 is falling apart.

         9 SONGS suffers simply because there’s no real context –
 and while that my have been the intention, it only serves
 to make the movie seem more like an anthropology documentary
 than a movie meant for a mass audience. Instead of animals
 humping, we’ve got actual humans. What is a deliberate
 choice is that we learn next to nothing about Lisa except that
 she’s been sexually promiscuous since she was a teenager. All
 the encounters occur at Matt’s apartment or in a hotel room, and
 the affair is filtered through Matt’s memories. He’s the narrator,
 after all.

         I imagine that the DVD release of the film will win over
 more fans as they will be able to stop and replay or watch in slow
 motion as the couple fornicate, fueling many fantasies perhaps.
 Whatever floats one's boat.

                 Rating:                       C
                 MPAA Rating:               NONE (language, sexual content)
                 Running time:              69 mins.

                               Viewed at Magno Review Two.
©  2005 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.