Wednesday, 7 February 2018

9 Songs (2004)


In which Gruey grew up to be a rather unconvincing glaciologist and is shown shooting his muck on screen. Yes I know, not exactly something we were crying out for, but Michael Winterbottom thought we were and so he gave the world 9 Songs in 2004; a film that tells the story of a modern day romance across nine live band performances, and one of the misses in his surprisingly frustrating hit and miss career.


It's a popular misconception to claim that 9 Songs is the first British film outside of pornography to feature genuine sexual intercourse. Patrice Chéreau's 2001 film Intimacy, based on Hanif Kureishi's 1989 novel, featured Mark Rylance and Kerry Fox getting it on for their art. Aside from this inconvenient truth, 9 Songs bagged the controversy but, having finally watched it, I'm left thinking why? It was one of the most tediously dull films to sit through. It offers absolutely nothing other than a series of vanilla sex scenes and extremely mild bondage interspersed with scenes at the Brixton Academy where our lovers watch various indie bands including Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Primal Scream, Franz Ferdinand, and Elbow.  Well, there are enough bare arses on screen, we may as well see an elbow eh?


I wouldn't mind if the relationship between the aforementioned Gruey (does anyone else other than me remember that?) Kieran O'Brien and Margo Stilley, was an interesting one, but it's not. There's no fireworks here, this isn't Betty Blue, despite the occasional insistence that Stilley's character has 'Issues©', what we have is just two seemingly compatible young people meeting, fucking and ultimately splitting up on good terms. 


It's all quite elegiac and downbeat, which only adds to the nondescript, uneventful nature. Perhaps that's the point - perhaps Winterbottom just wanted to depict an authentic everyday relationship on the big screen. If that's the case I have to hand it to him, he succeeds to a certain extent, but after 66 minutes (mercifully brief) I knew absolutely nothing about the characters. The authenticity is definitely there in the headline grabbing sex scenes, which are shot with a conventional, unselfconcious and straightforward air. It's actually quite interesting to watch real sex on screen as, for all the Mary Whitehouse style cries of 'this is porn!', nothing could be further from the artificial, emotionless, antiseptic world of pornography if it tried. The sex here is tentative, sweaty, and yes, hairy. In short, it is sex you can relate to.


But who does a line of charlie before going to see Michael Nyman's 60th birthday concert? Feck off back to your Franz Ferdinand, you philistines!

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