I guess it was kind of metaphorical: While the rest of the world drank in the preening pageantry of The Departed's premiere Tuesday night up at the Ziegfeld Theater, I made the trip to the real show to end all shows: The New York premiere of Shortbus, John Cameron Mitchell's bohemian paean to (actual) sex, relationships and the social fabric of the city's underground.
And more than a year after calling bullshit on Mitchell's sweeping proclamations about sexualizing cinema and the potential for Shortbus to affect a crowd above 14th Street (or Bedford Avenue, for that matter), I had to face the filmmaker for an apology of sorts: Shortbus is, in fact, funny, humane, entertaining and absolutely pulls off its fusion of romantic comedy and hardcore sex. It seems perhaps a tad too much in love with its own overactive imagination, but given the film's literal, enduring embrace of onanism, you might as well applaud its consistency before writing it off in haste.
I will have more on this next week, including a podcast with Mitchell leading up to Shortbus' Oct. 6 release. In the meantime, I asked the director--whose Cannes premiere was received with a 10-minute standing ovation--how he felt about finally bringing his New York story home. "Woody Allen is thought of as a New York director, Scorsese, Abel Ferrara--there are all kinds of New York directors," he said. "But they're natives, so they had the roots, they had the family, and a lot of what they were doing was escaping the family. They had the buddies, the wiseguys, whatever.
"That's a different New York than Shortbus, which is the New York of the outcasts of the rest of the country and sometimes the world: the punk rockers, the freaks, the faggots. ... William Burroughs and all those people who came here from somewhere else in the spirit of the Statue of Liberty--to make their own way and create their own communities and be safe from persecution while making their own American dream. That's why I came and why pretty much everyone in the film came--to come and get fucked, for better or worse. To be fucked and forgiven, for real or imagined sins."
Fair enough, though neither really occurred for me at the screening (sitting among the film's orgiastic "sextras," such inauspicious luck) or at the party at Angel Orensanz or at the after-party at the Delancey Lounge. I consoled myself with a steady diet of spectacle: Mitchell's typically kinetic rock-outs; Dirty Martini's tassel prowess; Julie Atlas Muz's showstopping bleeding-heart act (no, really, she danced with a bleeding heart); Shortbus cast member Jay Brannan's chair subsequently sliding in the blood beneath him; and, ultimately, the bombastic "We All Get it in the End" reprise led by Justin Bond. Not a bad homecoming by half.
Anyway, look for more about Shortbus here in the days ahead. I've been at this for a while; I need a shower. -- STV
Posted at September 28, 2006 1:57 PM
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While we're on the subject of politicians who aren't all they seem to be, I saw a screening of Shortbus earlier this week, directed by John Cameron Mitchell (of Hedwig and the Angry Inch) fame. The film appears in this month's Times bfi London Film Fes... [Read More]