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Sex and the City - Sight & Sound, Steve McQueen, Shame

Article relating to an individual, 2012
Published by: Sight & Sound
Year published: 2012
Number of pages: 5

image of Sex and the City - Sight & Sound, Steve McQueen, Shame

Sex and the City was the title of a substantial feature on Steve McQueen and his then new film, Shame. The feature appeared in Sight & Sound magazine, February 2012, pages 34 - 38. The first part of the piece was an introduction to the film, followed by an interview with McQueen. The second part of the piece was an interview condicted with the star of Shame, Michael Fassbender. Both interviews were undertaken by Nick James, who also introduced the feature.

Sex and the City was introduced as follows: Three years after ‘Hunger’ launched Steve McQueen and Michael Fassbender on the filmmaking scene, they’re back with a film that’s no less fearlessly controversial. Nick James talks to them about sex addiction and ‘Shame’

The piece began with reflections on financial volatilities and ways in which James thinks the reader might be implicated, before going on to introoduce the notion of human sympathy being one thing viewers of Shame, and readers of this piece, could still afford.

“Shame is the emotion we’re meant to be feeling right now. The economic mess is somehow our own fault. While the super-rich sucks too much cash out of governmental systems through global tax evasion (and continue to do so), the rest of us Westerners consumed as if there was no tomorrow - and now there is no tomorrow. Name your poison - the one that caught you up in the consumer boom. Gadgets? Heels? Guitars? Cocaine? A huge DVD collection?

Perhaps you didn’t have one. Perhaps you were an exemplary citizen who never bashed their credit card, who always do their best for the environment, who behaved like hardly anyone else in the Western system. I’m sure there are some who feel blameless, but for now such righteous types should hold their counsel. We’re in a period of mourning for a greed that felt good while it lasted, even if its excesses now seem criminal. It’s a moment, for instance, in which the film The Iron Lady will ask us to find human sympathy for Margaret Thatcher in her dotage - the leader whose government firstly deregulated the markets in order to give Britain a desperately needed edge over the rest of Europe, and who presided over this the dismantling of Britain’s manufacturing industries…

…..But mention of De Niro brings me to the difficult part of this article. In the interview with Steve McQueen that follows, I quoted a passing admonition from the critic Jonathan Rosenbaum about what he calls Shame’s “sexiest complacencies and brutalities”. This caused a retaliatory accusation from the McQueen about race (see below) and Taxi Driver. The opinions stated there are Steve McQueen’s, not mine or those of this publication. And if we can put such accusations to one side for a moment, you cannot help but notice how often Scorcese’s New York crops up in the conversation. Is it the mirror into which Shame gazes?”

A full page portrait of McQueen, taken by Nicolas Guerin, accompanies the piece, as do a number of stills from the film, including one of Brandon, the character played by Fassbender.

From James’ interview with McQueen:

Nick James: Where do you think the tipping point is between someone who is merely sexually promiscuous and somebody who is sexually addicted?

Steve McQueen: When I first heard about the idea of sex addiction, I laughed. It’s like being at a Christmas party when Mary or Jonathan is drunk, and everyone says, “Oh he’s a fantastic drunk, isn’t he?” But when you realise that for Mary or Jonathan to get through a day they have to to drink two bottles of vodka, it ceases to be funny. It’s a similar thing with sexual addiction. When you find out that in order to get through a day, someone is on the Internet for 20 hours a day or more looking at pornography or having to have sexual activity at least 10 times a day, it’s incredible.

The second part of the feature, AIMING FOR THE CUT is introduced as follows: “In ‘Shame’ Michael Fassbender finds himself pushed to the edge once again by director Steve McQueen, he tells Nick James.

Nick James: how does a typical scene go when you’re working with Steve McQueen?

Michael Fassbender: When it comes to the day when you’re on the floor and it’s happening, it’s almost like picking up where we left off on Hunger. Those guys [Steve McQueen and DP Sean Bobbitt] I’ve just so non-afraid. There are no safety rails. It’s like, what’s the worst that can happen? You can fall flat on your face. Steve pushes me into a room and he says, “You’re going to die some time. What the heck?””

The film is reviewed on page 77 of the same issue of Sight & Sound, by Sukhdev Sandhu.

Related people

»  Steve McQueen OBE, CBE

Born, 1969 in London, UK