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Shortbus

Director: John Cameron Mitchell

USA| English| 2006| 102 mins.


DIRECTOR JOHN CAMERON MITCHELL FOLLOWS HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH WITH A SEXUALLY EXPLICIT ENSEMBLE PIECE ABOUT AN ASSORTMENT OF NEW YORKERS WHO PURSUE THEIR DREAMS AND HANG-UPS AT ‘SHORTBUS’, A POLYSEXUAL SALON WHERE LITERALLY ANYTHING GOES.

To an effortless cool soundtrack, a camera swoops and sweeps through a charmingly animated New York cityscape, before introducing us to the in flagrante characters at the heart of John Cameron Mitchell’s playful pansexual study of modern relationships. Shortbus is ‘a salon for the challenged and gifted’, presided over by Mistress Justin Bond. Louche and lively, it’s the place where characters come together (pun intended) to join in all manner of erotic acts, or simply to share in the music and campy chat.

At the heart of the film is the conundrum of why modern city folk have such difficulty opening up emotionally, even when physical barriers are broken down. There’s Sofia, the pre-orgasmic couples counsellor who’s faking it with her husband; Severin, the unhappy dominatrix who can’t let anyone get close; the Jamies, a long-term gay couple considering opening up their relationship; as well as a motley assortment of more minor characters (the former Mayor of New York is a particular favourite). Their dilemmas and encounters are woven together with great warmth and wit, and whilst the film concentrates on the characters’ sexuality, it does pack real emotional force.

Whatever your take on its polymorphous pleasures, Shortbus (both movie and club) has great lines, great music, a joyful feel, and a rendition of ‘The Star Spangled Banner’ that’s in a league of its own.—Sandra Hebron.

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