Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Michael Winterbottom: Nine Songs

Michael Winerbottom has made a variety of films, experimenting as he goes. One of my favorites of his remains 24 Hour Party People (2002), both for its wit and recreation of the Manchester music scene beginning with a visit by the Sex Pistols in 1976 and starring Steve Coogan as Tony Wilson; a lot of that one revolves around Joy Division and New Order.

Winterbottom's Nine Songs (2004) is a more stripped-down film -- literally and figuratively -- about a man and a woman who "see" each other in London, spend a lot of time at his flat, and see a lot of live music (quite a bit of it at Brixton Academy). Sex, drugs and rock and roll, more or less. Told from Englishman Matt's (Kieran O'Brien) point of view, the film is intercut with brief scenes from his later working life in Antarctica. His American paramour Lisa (North Carolina-born Margo Stilley) comes and goes as she wishes, while his attachment to her seems to grow. Dialogue is sparse, leaving the audience to connect the dots about their larger lives.

Upon its release, 9 Songs was the most sexually frank British movie ever shown on the big screen (outside of "blue" theatres, I suppose).  In context, you can see it as the culmination of an arc that begins with the controversial reception of Louis Malle's  Les Amants / The Lovers (1958), proceeds through Bernardo Bertolucci's Ultimo tango a Parigi / Last Tango in Paris (1972) and Wayne Wang's The Center of the World (2001) and arrives at 9 Songs.

Today's Rune: Signals. p.s. music by Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and others is cool for context.

No comments: