For those of us who love screen nudity, the Holy Grail is a
great movie with great nudity. It's never really happened. There are been great
movies with some nudity, and there has been great nudity in watchable films, but
great/great is always been out of reach. The best we could hope for has been a pretty good movie with excellent
nudity. Movies with spectacular nudity, like 9 Songs, are just never great
movies, and the truly great movies like The Godfather never seem to have that
much nudity at all. Why hasn't our Grail been found? Well, a big part
of the problem, maybe all of the problem, is that real-time sex simply screws up
a movie's pacing. Story-telling is all about forward progress and pacing, and a
script writer has only about 90 minutes to grab our attention and spin his yarn. It
is simply not possible to show several real-time sex scenes, taking several
minutes each, in a worthwhile 90-minute drama. In terms of narrative, sex
scenes are just long stretches when nothing happens. That is the problem with
The Lover, for example, a magnificently photographed film - a genuine work of
visual art - which has some damned good sex scenes. It's only a great movie when the
sex isn't happening. And it only has great nudity in the boring part of the
film. It has the core of great nudity and great filmmaking, but they never come
together. I suppose the the two films which best integrate substantial
nudity into the fabric of a pretty good film are Basic Instinct and Sirens.
Shortbus comes, very, very close to what we have been
seeking. It is a wise and honest ensemble dramedy about modern relationships. I
don't even like that kind of movie in general, but I liked this one. The music
is good. The jokes are good - I laughed out loud a couple of times. The drama
works - I was emotionally invested in the story, and profoundly moved a few
times. The characters, even the quirkiest ones, are human and believable, and I
was rooting for them. The film is technically excellent, and marvelously
inventive, with more than a touch of magic.
The sex is explicit, and doesn't go on too long to slow the story down. In fact,
the sex scenes are all interesting to watch for some reason or another, because
the characters are communicating in some way which is integral to the story or
at least to maintaining a high level of energy and entertainment.
"So," you are wondering, "why is the film only 'close' to our
I think Shortbus very well could have been our Holy Grail if
the storylines had been split into two separate movies, one for the straight
audience, one for the gay. It would have been a simple matter. There are
basically two complete storylines.
On the one hand there is a woman who has never had an orgasm.
This is particularly ironic, since she's a sex therapist. Her euphemism for her
condition is that she is "pre-orgasmic," but nobody knows what the hell that
means. One guy hears her use the term, then asks, "Does that mean you're just
about to have one?" and steps back to give her some additional room! Half of
the movie is about her quest for the big O.
The other storyline is about a monogamous homosexual couple
which has come to a crisis in the relationship because one of the partners is
profoundly depressed. The two men look for answers - and their search includes a
consultation with a relationship therapist - which circles back to the other
As it stands, the film is ... er ... polymorphous. Is that
the word I'm looking for? The sexual activities take every shape possible. There
are guys having daisy chains with other guys. There is masturbation by both
sexes. There is heterosexual sex. There's even a guy who can blow himself - and
swallows! In all honesty, this is not what I want to watch. Homosexual sex
doesn't repulse me, but it doesn't interest me either, so when the guys were
getting it on, there wasn't anything on screen that I was interested in. Let's
face it, I don't have any interest in watching some naked guys lickin' and
suckin' away and jackin' each other's beanstalks. Unfortunately for me, as you
can see from the nudity summary below, the male nudity is far more explicit and
prolific than the female, so it's actually more of a gay-oriented film. In fact,
I'd go so far as to say it is actually an explicit gay movie with some hetero sex thrown in as a smokescreen.
So the film came close to ringing the carnival bell but ultimately won no cigar.
Unless you're gay.
Not that there's anything wrong with
Be that as it may, Shortbus is still a good movie, close to a
great one. I think I can say I would have loved the film if all the
relationships had been hetero and the sex scenes had all involved at least one
woman. That's the upside, and I've told you the downside, so I recommend the
film for anyone who is not scared off by my description. I have a feeling that's
a pretty small audience, which is something of a shame, but a reality.