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9 Songs


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#41 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 06 January 2006 - 02:44 PM

Can someone please change the title of this thread!?!?

Link to the short-lived secondary thread.

This film arrived in Vancouver last night, and it's here until Monday, and it's showing at a theatre that I can get into for free, so now I have to decide whether to see it. Hmmm.

And it's on a double-bill with Sympathy for Mr Vengeance, from the director of Oldboy. Hmmm.

Interestingly, J. Robert Parks and others have said that what sets this film apart from other recent sexually-explicit films is that the characters seem to LIKE each other, for once. But Ken Eisner's review would seem to mitigate that, e.g.: "The appropriately named director shoots the couple's energetic sex-making (one would be hard-pressed to call this love) with a loose combination of swooning improvisation and clinical detachment, and it's an approach that becomes tedious when you realize that the people involved don't particularly like each other. As played by the reedlike Stilley, a novice but readily naked actor, spoiled-brat Lisa is pretty annoying in general. In any case, the sketchy attempts at plot aren't all that believable, as when Matt storms out of a strip club after Lisa gets turned on by a female lap dancer. Yeah, right."

#42 Nathan H

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Posted 08 January 2006 - 11:13 PM

I saw this film a couple of months ago in Ithaca. I had not read any of the hype surrounding the films sexuality, my friends and I had seen the poster and liked the bands that are in the movie, so we went. Any claims that the sexuality in this film is justified are absurd. The movie does not attempt to make any valid points about sexuality or about the nature of relationships, instead it chronicals the ridiculous sexual fantasies and antics of a female character who is so obsessed with pleasing herself that the film includes a scene or two of graphic female masturbation. And likewise, most of the sexual activity in this film is very graphic oral sex that includes lots of bodily fluids. The most shocking thing about seeing this movie, was the fact that it was being shown on the campus of Cornell University in a theatre designed for college students. Regardless of how liberal the kids I saw this film were, they were equally as shocked to have seen this movie on a college campus. Plus we were all dissapointed that there was more sex than music.
A mentor of mine when it comes to movies and film making once said, "I believe that a film should never include sex or prayer because both are acts that are too personal and intimate to showcase". I don't know if I certainly believe this, but I believe that prayer is also something that must be carefuly thought out before trying to portray it.

#43 Overstreet

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Posted 08 January 2006 - 11:53 PM

I agree that a real prayer should not be filmed. It is indeed something that is not to be looked at and assessed by outside viewers. (This is why televised prayers trouble me.)

Portrayals of prayer, well, that's something different. I love the scenes in The Apostle, which give us a depiction of what aggressive faith can be like, and how the saints often wrestle with their Lord.

Real sex, even between married folks, is an intimate exchange between two people, and to present it to others is to cheapen it grossly and to violate that private bond... to exploit it for entertainment and titillation.

Real extramarital sex, being celebrated onscreen, is even more obscene.

Depictions of sex that are filmed and employed with restraint can be powerful, useful, and meaningful in art.

Every time I hear art film critics praising the obliteration of the real-sex-onscreen "taboo" in 9 Songs, I wonder how long it will be before we see real pedophilia... real beastiality... being celebrated onscreen as long-overdue audacity. Hey, it happens in the real world. Why not film it?

(I gotta admit, I felt a chill at the end of Me, You, and Everyone We Know when I saw
Spoiler
in a moment played with a tone of tender comedy. It was like the first tiny pebble shifting in what will someday become a landslide.)

#44 Nathan H

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Posted 09 January 2006 - 10:39 AM

I kind of see what you are saying about some of the scenes in Me & You & Everyone We Know, but the difference is that in that film some of the scenes were justified in making overall insights into the nature of sexuality and they were done with restraint. 9 songs was blatantly sexual, used no restraint at all, and didn't appear to make any statements or insightful points about sexuality. When a director is dealing with sexual issues he or she must do so with tenderness and respect to their subjects, a perfect example of this is Bergman's The Silence, and I believe July accomplished this as well.

#45 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 09 January 2006 - 12:35 PM

FWIW, I always "wonder" about prayer scenes, myself. Like, WE know it's just acting, but did anyone ask GOD if it was okay? I sometimes feel like the actors might be dialing God's phone, and making it ring, and he's answering it somewhere and thinking to himself, "Oh, they're just ACTING now."

And now I'm vaguely reminded of the reports that real Pentecostals were hired as extras for Leap of Faith because it's hard for non-Pentecostals to fake speaking in tongues.

#46 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 10 January 2006 - 01:45 AM

9 Songs reminds me that I really, really need to buy a copy of Michael Nyman's Wonderland soundtrack, to replace the CD that was lost at the bus depot a year and a half ago.

Christian, I don't know if you're reading this thread, but I occasionally thought of you while watching this film. I seem to recall you asking me, back in my single days -- possibly before I had even met my wife -- how my reactions to sexually graphic films like this would change, if and when I got married.

Well, I'm married now, and I think this might very well be the first film of this kind that I have seen since my wedding 11 months ago; and suffice to say that being a married, sexually active man does give me a whole new perspective on these sorts of scenes. In the past, they were all theory; I could approach them on a more purely aesthetic level because, content-wise, I had only my speculations about sex to go by. Now, however, I have actual experiences that I can compare to the experiences onscreen, and, um, it allows me to do a bit more "projecting". If anything, it creates an affinity between me and the characters, or actors, that I would be quite happy NOT to feel, thankyouverymuch, given how these characters behave, and given that I know the actors will probably have no further contact in real life, despite experiencing something that really ought to be (and certainly has been, for me) a powerful expression of the marital bond.

I am not sure whether or not I am surprised by J. Robert Parks's 4-star review -- which, for all I know, may be the only review of this film on an explicitly Christian website. I would agree with the more critical reviews that I have seen here in Vancouver, and I am not sure what to make of these comments of J. Robert's in particular:
But it is real sex. Between two relative strangers. Who are being filmed. And we're watching. And this, of course, raises a whole host of moral and ethical issues. What is the difference between 9 Songs and pornography? If you believe in the sanctity of sexual intercourse (as I do), can you condone a film that required two people to participate in it? Is there a difference between directing a sex film and watching it? And what is the impact of watching such private moments in a large theater?

I don't necessarily have thoughtful answers for all of those questions, but I can say without hesitation that 9 Songs is not pornography. Its goal is not to titillate or arouse. Yes, parts of it are erotic, but that's intrinsic to sexuality. The fact that Winterbottom can capture even a small part of the sexual experience -- revealing its joy and intimacy, vulnerability and intensity -- without cheapening it is testimony to his thoughtfulness as a director.

In fact, I would argue that 9 Songs has a stronger moral foundation than the simulated sex of most R-rated movies, the voyeurism of reality tv, and the commodification of sex in contemporary advertising. Those aspects of our culture, which don't even arouse controversy anymore, manipulate sex and debase it. They create horribly false ideas of how men and women should relate to each other. 9 Songs does almost the opposite. It reminds us of the power of sexuality as well as its vulnerability. It celebrates the intimacy of sexual intercourse and acknowledges its consequences. The sexual acts in this film don't occur in a vacuum. They are explicit but not gratuitous. Many critics have pointed out that the man and woman don't relate much outside of the bedroom, which is a legitimate point. But it's also true that 9 Songs is able, in its short running time (barely 70 minutes), to chronicle the beginning, middle, and end of a relationship, and do it thoughtfully and sincerely.

I do wish the film were longer, though. I wanted to know more about these characters, to get a better sense of what moves them and why they came together and why, in the end, they drift apart. . . .
Okay, we get a token nod to the idea that art is better than commerce, and I can take that for what it is. But really, in what way does this film "acknowledge" the "consequences" of sexual intimacy? How can J. Robert say the sexual acts "don't occur in a vacuum" when, in fact, "the man and woman don't relate much outside of the bedroom" (and one of their few ventures outside is to a lap-dancer club!) and even J. Robert himself wants to "know more" about these characters.

And why would a Christian critic who is grappling with a film like this explicitly state that he ISN'T going to offer any "thoughtful answers" to the moral questions raised by the film, except to say that the film has a form or a structure or an aesthetic which allows it to be categorized under some other heading besides "pornography"? THAT sort of comment we could get from just about anyone, right? But isn't a Christian site supposed to offer something a little more than that -- for example, something approaching a thoughtful answer to moral questions?

As for the short running time -- not only is it "barely 70 minutes", it is, in fact, 69 minutes (get it? get it?) -- I wonder if J. Robert missed the joke, or simply thought it would be in bad taste to share it, nudge-wink style, with the Tollbooth's readers.

#47 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 26 July 2006 - 01:32 AM

Jeffrey Overstreet wrote:
: I agree that a real prayer should not be filmed. It is indeed something that is not to be looked
: at and assessed by outside viewers. (This is why televised prayers trouble me.)

Jeffrey, I just heard the other day that apparently Nia Vardalos asked an Orthodox priest she knows to play the priest in the wedding scene in My Big Fat Greek Wedding ... and the priest's bishop wouldn't let him do it, because an ordained person performing the sacrament, even "just for show", would still be performing the sacrament! So the priest played the reader, instead (i.e., the person at the back of the sanctuary who reads the epistle and gospel readings for the service).

To A&Fers in general: If we had a thread devoted to the issues raised by, um, "prayer porn" (for lack of a better term, but you know what I mean), then I would have posted this there; but since we don't, forgive me if you'd rather not have seen this thread bumped again.

#48 Russ

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Posted 26 July 2006 - 05:11 AM

It's cool with me.

#49 M. Leary

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Posted 26 July 2006 - 05:21 AM

As long as its cool with Russ its cool with me.

#50 Doug C

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Posted 26 July 2006 - 09:11 AM

QUOTE(Jeffrey Overstreet @ Jan 8 2006, 09:53 PM) View Post

I agree that a real prayer should not be filmed. It is indeed something that is not to be looked at and assessed by outside viewers. (This is why televised prayers trouble me.)

That's too bad, I was really looking forward to watching the film Jesus, You Know.

#51 Persona

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Posted 26 July 2006 - 09:21 AM

The idea behind Jesus, you know is pretty neat and it works for a few minutes. And the people in the film can be legitimately empathized with. However, I have a hard time praying on my own for 87 minutes straight -- it's even harder to stick with someone else's prayers for that period of time.

-s.

#52 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 26 July 2006 - 01:04 PM

Yeah, that movie DOES kind of sound like "prayer porn". Which is not to say I wouldn't see the film, the same way I saw 9 Songs. But still.

#53 Russ

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Posted 26 July 2006 - 05:25 PM

Preach it!