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Shame (Blu-ray Review)

Actor Michael Fassbender (Inglourious Basterds) and director Steve McQueen (Hunger) have teamed up once again to bring us Shame, a tale of sexual addiction and depravity. Carrey Mulligan (Drive) joins in on the festivities. Shame is rated NC-17, the highest, or next to highest rating a Hollywood feature can get. I think X or XXX is next, but that doesn’t happen with mainstream films. Shame was one of the most talked about films of 2011 and it garnered a Golden Globe nomination for Michael Fassbender in the lead actor category.  How does Shame stack up to the lurid word-of-mouth it got upon release? Will this Blu-ray presentation be a shame or will it live up to the hype?  We’ll see what happens. 

 

Film 

Brandon Sullivan (Michael Fassbender) is a handsome and successful business man of some kind, as it’s never revealed what he actually does. He lives in a bomb ass highrise apartment in New York, is an obvious baller who spends his time meeting and sleeping with many attractive women from all over the city. He seems to play hard and party even harder. All of this is suddenly interrupted when his sister Sissy (Carey Mulligan) drops in on him unexpectedly.

Sissy is a musician and has a gig or two in the city, as well. This throws Brandon’s life into a bit of a whirlwind, because he’s used to the solitary and loner life of coming, going, and doing whatever he wants without having to worry about anyone else. Sissy kind of kills this. Oh, and the rub (insert penis joke) is that Brandon has an extreme sexual addiction. He sleeps with women as if they were going out of style, watches porn at home and at work, masturbates non-stop at home and at work, and pretty much lives life on the edge of almost getting caught doing these things without really caring.

This throws him for a loop, because now his interactions at work, and home life have been shaken upside down by the arrival of Sissy. Sissy also has problems of her own, as well. She’s a struggling singer whose got nowhere to go and crashes at Brandon’s place. She’s also a very uninhibited person who does things without weighing in on the consequences. This leads to some awkward moments with Brandon and his boss.

Shame is a great film in that it doesn’t blatantly give you every single tidbit of back story or shows you flash backs about these two characters. It’s telegraphed throughout the film that they probably had a screwed upbringing, but somewhere along the way they distanced themselves from each other. What happened? Who knows. Sissy wants to be closer to her brother, but Brandon, for the most part, does not want anything to do with her, because she screws up his routine. I’ve already mentioned what his routine is, so no need to repeat myself on that.

It was kind of funny that during the beginning of the film I was all like, “Man, this is pretty damn cool. Big baller, shot caller in the big city making money and doing his thing with the ladies,” but then the you know what hit the fan and I quickly changed my mind and was like, “This is one whacky game show!”

Shame is a great film that features some stellar performances and assured direction behind the camera. The material showcased in Shame is extremely dark, so enter at your own risk and please keep in mind that the film is rated NC-17. It does have “The Fass” hanging ten throughout the whole film, so don’t let the kids walk in on this one. Better safe than horrified.

Video  

Shame is presented in 1080p, 2.35:1 widescreen. Wow, they went all out in the video department, I’ll tell you that right now! Flesh tones appear natural and razor sharp. They never soften with exception to the women, but that’s due to some of the beauty make-up styles used. Grain levels are steady and consistent. There is never any indication that you are watching anything other than an actual “reel” film. Whether it was shot on digital or not, I can’t say, but can say that it’s a beautiful looking picture that captures the Big City in all its majestic glory. Black levels are clean and never crush. Contrast levels never come off as boosted or manipulated in post production – you won’t see a lens flare in there either. Brilliant would be one of many adjectives to describe Shame’s video presentation on Blu-ray.

Audio 

Shame is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. Here’s a double whammy with regards to a perfect ratings score, too. Dialogue is powerful, vivid, and comes through that center channel like a missile without causing any collateral damage. Yes, it isn’t that type of film, but that doesn’t mean that a drama cannot get a great score with regards to its audio presentation. There are several scenes at restaurants and nightclubs where the music just envelopes the sound stage – I had to take out my I.D. just in case they wanted to card me; I thought I was in line at the club. The ambiance and city sound-scape also comes through the rear channels in a realistic fashion, in addition to the LFE bringing in some nice low-end rumble in said night clubs. Me like. 

Extras 

This is ain’t no Criterion Collection film, I’ll tell you that much. There’s probably less than 20 minutes worth of special features. It’s a shame considering that McQueen and Fassbender’s previous collaboration received the royal treatment. I don’t know why Shame did not receive it as well. It’s a major bummer and it will lower the overall score a bit, too.

  • Focus on Michael Fassbender
  • Director Steve McQueen
  • The Story of Shame
  • A Shared Vision
  • Fox Movie Channel presents: In Character with Michael Fassbender

Summary 

I’m all for dark and compelling character studies and think that Shame fills the current void nicely. For such a short film, it delivers a rich portrayal of such messed up human beings that we actually come to care for them towards the end. Whether the issues presented get resolved or not is another matter. I do think the Academy was wrong for not nominating Michael Fassbender for Best Actor since he does pull off a daring and great performance. It was probably due to the amount of full frontal nudity and sex on his part (the women too). Prudes. If you’re not easily offended by the human condition or extreme sexual dramatizations then I highly recommend Shame on Blu-ray.

 

 

 

 

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Gerard Iribe is a writer/reviewer for Why So Blu?. He has also reviewed for other sites like DVD Talk, Project-Blu, and CHUD, but Why So Blu? is where the heart is. You can follow his incoherency on Twitter: @giribe

2 Responses to “Shame (Blu-ray Review)”


  1. Brian White

    While I thoroughly enjoyed this movie for what it is, not just because of the subject matter, I truly don;t believe it deserves that NC-17 label. Sure, again, there’s the subject matter, but come on! There’s so much worse out there that is Rated R.
    Nevertheles…good writeup here!

  2. Gerard Iribe

    Penis.