Shame ★½

Bullshit from the first frame: a film that uses "sex addiction" to tell a universal story of addiction, draining any specificity in order to create an abstract world where nothing feels lived in. A sterile set of poses in supremely crafted shots that never reveal any psychology. Brandon rushes into the bathroom to jerk off at work and McQueen shoots it from a bird's eye view, but this cuts us off from his face but also his body, so what is to be read by this gesture is only felt in the camera. What's the relationship between Brandon and his boss? Does he usually let him come back to his apartment to fuck random women when they both can clearly buy a prime hotel for a day without worry? (As Brandon does later in the film). And especially when its his own sister? Why does McQueen cut the date early and suddenly turn the repartee between Brandon and his co-worker from completely awkward (the film's best scene by far) to them leaving the restaurant suddenly a bit more chipper? McQueen and Morgan skip the actual hard part (!) to move onto another Great Thesis. The most telling detail, however, is the final fight between Brandon and his sister, played in a long take with some Columbia Pictures 1930s cartoon playing in the background when she enters. Why this cartoon? Brandon has a record player, and apparently likes classical music, but nothing suggests a personality that would be interested in this, or anything that doesn't have some Important Presence. And why exactly that tear during "New York, New York"? Hell, why "New York, New York," as Brandon seems to have no ties to the city in any meaningful way?

The truth is none of these gestures matter—they're a series of poses for the camera, artfully constructed in the guise of the same material that made McQueen a sensation in the art video world (his repeated Buster Keaton homage Deadpan repeats the gesture until it's, well, boring to watch. Simply an empty technique). As Ignatiy kills it: "Every scene ladled with big dollops of cinema's most respectable cop-out: ambiguity." We're all supposed to recognize ourselves in Shame, but that's because there's always space for us to fill in our own holes (!!) about Brandon, and thus see the Power of Addiction, the Guilt of The Past, and any other Big Themes you want to add to the list. There's nothing human to redeem here when the deck has been stacked in creating someone whose complete psychology has been developed to be primed for a series of banal truths.