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Monday, June 10

9 Songs- Michael Winterbottom

Intimacy versus physical closeness, sexual empowerment versus traditional values- this is what 9 Songs (2004) is all about. If you have the patience to peel off the plain sexual/rock music layers, you'll be surprised to get a close look at the meaning of reminiscence and loneliness, togetherness and melancholy. Michael Winterbottom is now credited for having directed the "most explicit movie in British cinema history".

 9 Songs is a cocktail of rock music and hot sex, ice caps and short conversations. Sex in movies is commonly controversial and usually starts with steamy flirtation and culminates with earth-shaking love making, more or less showy. This movie joins the lewd line of controversial movies such as In the realm of senses, Salo, Last Tango in Paris or Intimacy that make prudes take their hypocritical eyes off and the mature ones appreciate them for their honesty. Winterbottom's movie is the story of a geologist, Matt, (Kieran O’Brien) reflecting back on his relationship with Lisa (Margot Stilley), while flying over the vast, white Antarctic. As the title suggests, Matt and Lisa have in common a passion for live rock concerts and uninhibited sex. They first meet at a ‘Black Rebel Motorcycle Club’ concert and end up at his place, having wild, yet protected sex.
Though I fail to see the connection between sexual encounters and live rock music, much to my broad-mindedness, the concerts seem to fuel the sexual energy of the two characters and they embark on the most instinctive, unrestrained sexual games and explorations. I believe this is one of the things that vexed the sensitivity of the puritan eyes- a woman's exploration of  her own sexuality, which is a rather virgin territory in movies. Lisa is open about her desires and expresses herself in a free manner, using sex and Matt to fulfil her fantasies; sometimes, it is not even about him, it is about giving herself pleasure in all possible ways. Another unexpected, less traditional aspect is that of showing a couple who does not take the usual path by talking about mundane things such as future plans, marriage, a house or children. Their conversations are short and sound as natural as their sex encounters; they enjoy each other's company, their bodies, recreational drugs, smoking, light meals and carefree moments.
Much to my surprise, at the end of the 69 minutes, you get the feeling it was too short, which probably was the director's intention- a sort of furtive glance thrown at someone's year spent with another someone. Your are left wandering whatever happened to Matt and Lisa and whether they found a way to reunite; but then again, to what purpose? Rock concerts and sexual encounters are brief, meaningful and unrepeatable. We only get to look at the story from Matt's reminiscent perspective- a man who probably feels less lonely among the white, remote, lifeless plains of the Antarctic than in the short-lived, intense thing with Lisa. It is more demanding in life to get good love than good sex but, then again, there is no accounting for taste, right?

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