John Cameron Mitchell’s next film, Shortbus, made quite a stir when it debuted at the Cannes Film Festival – the largely improvised movie features scenes of real people engaging in real, explicit sex. There was actually a minor bidding war over this movie – which can never play on TV, and will never be carried in Blockbuster – and indie powerhouse ThinkFilm took the day.
Mitchell is familiar as Hedwig, the anatomically incorrect German rock star from Hedwig and the Angry Inch. Mitchell took his play from off-Broadway to the screen, making one of the all-time great movie musicals along the way. It’s one of my favorite movies of this young century, and I had been eagerly awaiting Mitchell’s follow-up… for the last five years.
I have to admit to mixed feelings about Shortbus. The film is about the lives of seven New Yorkers, straight and gay, whose lives connect at “the bohemian salon Shortbus.” (I honestly don’t know if this is a salon in the hair sense or the French sense). Anyway, it’s the sex that troubles me, and there are two reasons: one, I have yet to see a film that incorporates real sex into itself without coming across as either completely sleazy or completely boring. I do think Mitchell might have the talent to pull that off, though, and it could be worth it all to see gay men having sex while singing the national anthem. The other problem I have with films that incorporate real sex is that I see movies at press screenings, and I wonder if I really want to be sitting next to Joel Segal when someone is being anally intruded on screen. What if he gets carried away in the spirit of the moment?
ThinkFilm’s Mark Urman is excited by about the movie. "We all saw it together, and were unanimous about it. It’s quite groundbreaking, and we were all impressed with how natural and normal and comedic the extreme sex became without being offensive." He does admit that it might be tricky to market this one, though: "Maybe we won’t take TV ads… I’ll save money."
ThinkFilm is going to release the movie as soon as possible.