9 Songs

"Good"

9 Songs Review


Given what a potential provocation the film could have been, the conceit of Michael Winterbottom's 9 Songs is admirable simplicity itself. Matt (Kieran O'Brien) and Lisa (Margo Stilley) have a meet-cute at a Black Rebel Motorcycle Club concert at Brixton Academy in London, after which they retire to his quarters for some exuberant shagging, an event that Matt, not surprisingly, looks back on fondly. Over the course of the film, we'll see eight other concerts interspersed throughout Matt's memories of their relationship, which focus mostly on the copious amounts of sex they had, with the occasional scrap of conversation tossed in. And that's it, music and sex.

What made the film's Cannes premiere and early 2005 release in England such scandal fodder, of course, is not the film's story or structure, but how Winterbottom went about the scenes with Matt and Lisa. That is, he filmed the actors actually engaging in intercourse, no fakery involved, and presents it in a straightforward manner, without the cutaways, montages, effortless orgasms, gymnastic posing and musical backdrops that comprise the average film's sexual content. If the film were more salacious and leering in approach, one could just call it pornography and be done with it. And given how little attempt Winterbottom's script (if one can call these few wisps of dialogue and few sentences of narration a script) makes to cast some meaning around Matt and Lisa's relationship, it would be pretty easy to say that this is just a porn in arthouse trimmings, with the concerts there for hipster cred, in the manner of magazines that mix punk pin-up girl pics with musician interviews as a way of updating the Playboy formula.

But while it's obvious that Winterbottom's desire to make the film came not so much from wanting to tell its fairly mundane story but to simply try and break a few taboos (that is, why are films still consistently so much more prudish on the issue of sex than on violence?), that doesn't mean there's nothing else on display here. For one, even with all the natural light and grainy handheld video, this is a frequently gorgeous piece of film. Also, the concerts themselves - mostly alt-rock, from the previously mentioned Black Rebel Motorcycle Club to the Von Bondies and The Dandy Warhols, with an exceptional piano performance by film composer Michael Nyman - have an exciting rawness to them so rarely seen in these over-produced times. Most importantly, though, the scenes between Matt and Lisa are markedly lacking in pornographic conventions, the camera more accidental observer than desperately intrusive voyeur. The result is that the sex isn't so bloody serious and mechanical, with the performers actually seeming to enjoy themselves, a strangely rare thing.

While 9 Songs may be an impressively honest and refreshing work, though, it's not the most engaging. The framing device is clumsy at best, with Matt a glaciologist who ruminates on Lisa afterwards while doing research in Antarctica - comparisons between glaciers and human relationships being a tricky thing in the best of hands. And while Winterbottom certainly found himself a pair of game actors, they don't demand one's attention, though Stilley has an attractive, Maggie Gyllenhaal-esque gangliness, as well as a certain mad young American egomania that plays well off O'Brien's stolid Britishness. There's some hints given as to what happens between the two of them when their not having it off or going to shows - with Lisa refusing to bring Matt around to see her friends, and seeming to need to create a certain amount of artificial drama - but barley enough to justify a short, let alone an entire feature. But taboo busting can make up for a lot, so even if this is simply a bare-bones love story emphasizing the naughty bits, for many that may be enough.

There are definitely many better directors than Michael Winterbottom working in the cinema right now, but what's sure (given the examples of such disparate works like The Claim and 24 Hour Party People) is that there are few who are more worthy. That said, 9 Songs may really just have been about screwing around, both physically and artistically - otherwise, would it really have been necessary to make the running time exactly 69 minutes?

Aka Nine Songs.

Keep scrubbing.



9 Songs

Facts and Figures

Run time: 71 mins

In Theaters: Friday 11th March 2005

Box Office Worldwide: $332.3 thousand

Budget: $1000 thousand

Distributed by: Tartan Films (UK)

Production compaines: Revolution Films

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 24%
Fresh: 23 Rotten: 71

IMDB: 4.9 / 10

Cast & Crew

Starring: as Matt, as Lisa, The Dandy Warhols as Themselves, as Themselves, as Themselves, as Themselves, The Von Bondies as Themselves, as Themselves, Michael Nyman as Himself

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

Contactmusic 2017 Exclusive

New Movies

Hidden Figures Movie Review

Hidden Figures Movie Review

This film recounts such a great true story that we don't mind the fact that...

The Founder Movie Review

The Founder Movie Review

This is the story of Ray Kroc, the man who created the concept of McDonald's....

John Wick: Chapter 2 Movie Review

John Wick: Chapter 2 Movie Review

Keanu Reeves picks up his supremely efficient hitman immediately where the 2015 original left him:...

Fences Movie Review

Fences Movie Review

After winning Tony Awards on Broadway, Denzel Washington and Viola Davis reteam for a film...

The Lego Batman Movie Movie Review

The Lego Batman Movie Movie Review

A spin-off from 2014's awesome The Lego Movie, this raucously paced action-comedy is proof that...

The Space Between Us Movie Review

The Space Between Us Movie Review

While the premise of this movie makes it look like a sci-fi adventure, the truth...

Toni Erdmann Movie Review

Toni Erdmann Movie Review

On paper, the idea of a two-hour 40-minute German comedy may not seem very promising,...

Advertisement
Gold Movie Review

Gold Movie Review

Based on a true story, this lively and sometimes outrageous adventure is packed with twists...

Loving Movie Review

Loving Movie Review

While this film tackles a huge issue in the history of race relations in America,...

T2 Trainspotting Movie Review

T2 Trainspotting Movie Review

It's been 20 years since we last saw four freewheeling young junkies from Edinburgh spiral...

Hacksaw Ridge Movie Review

Hacksaw Ridge Movie Review

Based on an astounding true story, this battlefield drama mixes warm emotion with intense action...

Sing Movie Review

Sing Movie Review

The quality of the animation in this musical comedy may not be up to Pixar...

Jackie Movie Review

Jackie Movie Review

Rather than make a standard biopic about the most famous First Lady in American history,...

Split Movie Review

Split Movie Review

After a few badly received sci-fi blockbusters, M. Night Shyamalan returned to his earthier style...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.