Monday, January 02, 2006

Number nine... number nine... turn me off dead film... number nine...

This one took some time to write. Every time I started I found I'd just keep repeating myself over and over rambling my way through it. Actually, some of the earlier drafts of this felt a lot like the movie in that respect. I still think this could use work, but the effort lacks fuel. So here is a mess about a mess.

You know I've got to say Roger Ebert more or less hit the nail on the head with his review of 9 Songs. The film really is more interesting to write and talk about than to actually watch. It's kind of like Izo in some respects, though I think I'd actually argue that that film was somehow less monotonous. (If you've seen Izo, then regardless of whether you liked it or hated it, you are well aware that it's depiction of eternal conflict is... rather testing.) 9 Songs is a handful of great ideas that are simply never fully realized. The film lacked a real script (pretty sure there wasn't one at all actually), which, in respect to the experimental intentions, the spontaneity of improvisation and authenticity of the actors performing real sex, deeply hurt the film.

I'd almost say this should have been an erotic novel, where the themes could have been explored better, but then the experience of the nine songs would have been lost. That seems like a small loss when one considers how underutilized the concert footage was. There simply wasn't enough to bridge the sex scene and the rock concerts. Under the gorilla filming conditions it would have probably been impossible to really have any dialog at the shows, but there is just so much your left wanting.

This is a film I think would be very interesting to have watched without previously reading a plot synopsis. I wonder how much I would have been able to figure out just from the images. The lengths to make sure we realize this film is not about love, but the inevitable breakdown of a relationship built completely around sexual attraction, are perhaps too great. The distance we are held from the characters is not my real peeve though. It's the distance between the ideas of the sex, the music, and the icy Antarctic that get me. The narration borders on redundant with the glaciologist's analogies between the Antarctic and relationships, but the concert footage never had that one line, one visual moment that really gave one a sealed and signed feeling of what was being done there. The whole thing felt like it could just as easily have been a con. Though if it is a con it's not hiding a porno... or at least a very good one. And in there lies the sad truth about 9 Songs. This is a very, very graphically sexual film that fails to work well on any level, even a debased one... unless perhaps you're fourteen or something.

There is a good film in this, all the ingredients are right. The acting isn't BAD. The camera work is great at times. Even the concert footage that Ebert rails on, I found very effective in making one feel there.
(Though the sound was just a little too grainy at times...) Had they shot this like a concert movie it would have taken us away from Matt and Lisa's experience at the concert, which was the point of the whole thing. The ideas are all solid for making an intelligent erotic film... but the director didn't mix the batter and totally burned the cake. And that's pretty frustrating to me. If you ask your actors to perform real sex for a film, you better damn well make a movie that will reward that level of commitment. Rarely is hardcore nudity or sex not poison for an actor's career, and to me it felt like this was nearly all for nothing.

Perhaps with multiple viewings this film might win me over with the magic of subtleties, but I just don't think I have the patience or interest to give it that. If you're looking for an intelligent erotic film of this nature, check out the love letter to film that is The Dreamers... or even the flawed film The Center of The World. Both were far more rewarding for me than this.

In the end, the biggest thing I got out of 9 Songs was that I really need to check out some Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. That band rocked!



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