9 Songs (Michael Winterbottom)
When I first read the synopsis for this film, I was very excited. It featured both music, which included top spot bands – Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Elbow, Primal Scream, Goldfrapp, and Dandy Warhols – and a provocative and sexy love story; two great entrees for any movie setting.
The concept of “9 Songs” revolves around a couple and their experiences within the halls of London’s Brixton Academy where they meet, share their love for music and themselves over the course of nine different concerts they attend.
The story goes back and forth, between the venue and their bed, where the director takes a racy step towards borderline soft porn, extending the camera’s reach into places on the body that most films dare not go. In one aspect, I’m intrigued by the revealing aspect of this couple’s sex life, especially since most movies have no problem showing full nudity when it comes to a woman’s body but the most we get to see is a man’s ass.
Then it all gets repetitive and the realization is that’s there’s not much to this couple’s “relationship” other than the two things they have in common: sex and music. There is very little dialogue to reveal their character’s traits, making them seem very boring indeed. It is limited to their actions, which is again shown in only two realms.
Matt is played by a Kieran O’Brien, who was previously directed by Michael Winterbottom in “24 Hour Party People” (an amazing film that sits nicely in my DVD collection), is a glaciologist who spends his time at the office, surrounded by the vast whiteness of the South Pole. When he’s with his girlfriend Lisa, he goes along with whatever she wants, and is very much in her hands, so to speak.
Lisa, we’re not sure what she does for a living except hang in Matt’s apartment with her legs in every direction, whining when she doesn’t get enough of his attention or having an imprompu self-pleasuring session as he gets something from the kitchen. She is played by Margo Stilley, a 21 year old actress-model out of Bear Creek, North Carolina, which would explain her stature of 80 lbs soaking wet.
Basically, Matt is her sex toy, at her beck and call and he is more than willing to accept this as his duty. No shock there. But her tireless, nympho desires seem to be too much even for him during the scene in the strip club where Lisa is a little too intrigued with another woman giving her a lap dance, and is oblivious of her mate next to her. To most guys this would be a dream come true, but Matt is less than enthused, which reveals one aspect about him: that he wants her all to himself no matter what and his interest scale is weighted heavier than hers.
In relationships based mostly on the physical attributes of each lover, this one came to a brief and uneventful end as the American girl packed her bags and went home with little warning or fanfare. It was definitely one sided, as you hear Matt’s thought of his memories of Lisa while he views the white freeze below from an airplane, heading for another glacier assignment. At least he’s got those memories to keep him warm. Lisa on the other hand seems to run off without a second thought of her former lover. I can see her putting another notch in her belt as she lands in La Guardia.
The sex scenes have caused some controversy, even with the liberal French. To me that’s a non-issue. Those scenes were well done and at times, beautiful. The biggest downfall of this movie is its repetitive nature: concert scene, shoot to the couple having sex, back to Brixton, back to the couple now having sex in the kitchen or on a living room chair, back again to Brixton, and it keeps going through those motions nine times until they part ways. All I could say to that was, “Huh.”
I had high hopes for this film and I was thoroughly disappointed, especially after seeing the tagline “69 Minutes of Sex and Rock N’Roll” and the fact that Winterbottom had done such an amazing job on “24 Hour Party People.” I guess if I read the tagline literally I would have no cause for complaint. On paper it has such great potential, if only the story had something more to offer. If anything, the musicians on stage put on some great performances, as one would expect. To them: BRAVO!