It starts from the very first frame as a graphic and shockable open scene, but what I did find, was the further you get through the film, the more you ignore the sexual stuff and start to see this is not quite as one-dimensional as it may appear. You start seeing the non-sexual needs of each person and the individual relationships.
Ill leave the rest for you to judge!
But "Shortbus" is not a form of pornography. There are no close-ups of penetration or anything like that. Mitchell is most interested in exploring what goes on in someone's head during sex. I suppose he wanted the actors to have real sex in order to push them and the audience more deeply into the lived experience of eroticism. As an example, one male character has never been penetrated by another man. When it does finally happen, Mitchell has the actor really get penetrated. But the camera does not spend much time on his loins; it lingers on his face to capture the emotion he is experiencing. What we see on his face is not sexual arousal but personal transformation.
Unfortunately, this transformation is not that deep or complex. Ultimately the film is superficial, and this is its downfall. There's an air of sexual liberation that is quite nice, but it's nothing we haven't seen before. "Shortbus" experiments with form, but its content is rather hackneyed and thin.
A group of New Yorkers get caught up in their romantic-sexual milieu converge at an underground salon infamous for its blend of art, music, politics, and carnality.
A good movie that explores all ranges of human sexuality and makes you think. It's explicit yet isn't pornographic. The movie is not intended for the faint of heart to watch. But with an open mind, you'll learn something from watching this movie.
The acting is the only weakness in this movie (and a few strange psychedelic scenes in the end), which explains the score I give the film. But, I applaud James Cameron Mitchell for directing a movie that so candidly and honestly explore all the relationship issues that all human beings have, and not just limit it to a category of people. While many may dismiss this movie as a poor excuse to shock people with sex, people who delve deeper will find that the director has a deep understanding of what a majority of people on this planet go through in their every day love life.
Check it out, withhold your judgment, and stay open to ideas. I think it will teach you something.
There are some very deep charactors with small parts here - from the ageing "mayor", to the veuyouristic neighbor living vicariously through the two gays, to the drag queen founder of "shortbus" (named after the smaller busses that pick up the gifted and the challenged).
Yet for those rich charactorizations, somehow the more central dominatrix charactor came off oddly flat and not believable. The believability was much more pronounced with Jamie, who wanted nothing more than the love and happiness of his moody companion (also Jamie, but in a foreboding sequence, tells a couples therapist that he wants to be called James).
A very poignant scene towards the end where Jamie sees James across the way, backlit in the window of the voeyuers apartment, highlights the directors ability to say much without dialogue.
The use of the 3-D drawings of NYC were a nich touch as well.
At first glance, this film may seem to be a porno disguised as a legitimate film. But that's the point it's making. What is the difference between this and something subversive? Who designates what is subversive and what is acceptable. More importantly, this film explores so much more that's brewing beneath the surface of a sexually graphic exterior. Why do people act-out through sex? Sex elicits attention. Giving something attention means giving it power. Therefore, sex equals power.
But how is this power used? Can it be misused? To abuse a partner emotionally? To neglect the needs your body is asking you to fulfill? To satisfy yourself in more than sexual ways? To make a human connection for once in your life? These are all themes that this film explores and once you've gotten over the novelty of the excessive nudity and non-simulated sex, you get to the heart of a truly touching story about people trying to get by and survive in an unforgiving city-- an unforgiving world.
[font=Century Gothic]Written and directed by John Cameron Mitchell, "Shortbus" is a sexually graphic movie that is not so much about sex, as it is about honesty and being open in communicating your desires. Participation is always better than voyeurism, in both life and sex. The movie is surprisingly touching and funny(I'll never listen to the National Anthem in the same way again), while having respect for differences. But the acting is on the amateurish side and the movie faults by trying to force 9/11 into the conversation.[/font]