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Old 29th Mar 2005, 15:10   #1
HP
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Default 9 Songs

Okay, since I'm spoiled for choice, let's begin with the bad news: boring sex, boring music, no plot, crap dialogue, no character development - hell, no characterisation at all, no message, no inference, no intelligence - in fact no bloody point at all.

And the good news? This is far harder. Um .... well, there were some rather pretty shots of snow. Oh yes - big selling point, this: it was short. There again, not bloody short enough.

For those interested the plot goes like this: boy meets girl at gig. Boy screws girl. Girl screws boy. They go to a lot of music concerts in between screws and then ..... they part. Yup. Deep, eh? And I'm not joking - that really is it, because there is absolutely nothing, not one teensy-weesy insubstantial little iota of anything else to even vaguely amuse you or keep you entertained. Take away the music and you're left with nothing but tame and very boring sex. Take away the sex and you're left with tame and very boring music. Take away nothing, and on this occasion, you're still left with precisely nothing. Nada. Zilch.

Forget the hype about explicit sex, the rumpy-pumpy in this film was as hot as a pair of old bed-socks. Yes, a camera was (frequently) held within inches of the actors' (I use the term mighty loosely) undercarriages and twiddly bits, but for all the good it did, it might just as well have been a biology video complete with sound effects. I would think the couplings of the average domestic bunny would give these two a run for their money on the raunchometer. But then, the sex isn't supposed to be exceptional or entertaining. After all, this is a story (ha! another very loose term) about ordinary people doing ordinary things like .... well, like screwing and going to music concerts. The trouble is, ordinary people doing ordinary things in the hands of a director with a big hole in his head, is just not very entertaining. Many things it may be, but fun it ain't. No, the sex, I suggest, is simply Mr Winterbottom's attempt to put Mr Winterbottom on the cinematic map. Well it won't. You need to come up with more than this to make people come back for more. In fact, 9 Songs very much gives the impression of a director so desperate to achieve some sort of fame or recognition he's down to scraping bottoms, not of barrels - just bottoms full stop.
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Old 29th Mar 2005, 15:23   #2
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Philip French didn't much like it either, though in Winterbottom's defence he argues that he is

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one of our liveliest, least predictable and most productive film-makers, the nearest we've ever had to Jean-Luc Godard and Rainer Werner Fassbinder. He's made road movies, an exploration of the Manchester music scene, two Hardy adaptations (one of them as a western), a state-of-the-nation film, a piece of dystopian sci-fi and one of the most striking pictures about the plight of refugees.
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Old 29th Mar 2005, 15:34   #3
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Well yes, but were any of them any good? Seems to me the fella keeps trying and when one door doesn't open so he bangs away on another. Peter Bratshaw - the idiot at the Guardian, dares - sorry, DARES to compare 9 Songs to Before Sunset. This is like comparing Pizza Hut to The Ivy. Before Sunset is one of the most moving, most enchanting films about a couple meeting and coming together that you are likely to see. An absolute gem. I see kumquat's awarded it 5 stars on her palimp film list. I would go so far as to suggest seven little twinklers at the very least. Loved that film! Get it on dvd, then after a little while get the follow-up, After Sunset. In fact, says she going on and on and on - but hey! am smiling just at the memory of it - see both the Sunset films and then take in The Station Agent. My favourite three best films of 2003. Then you'll understand just how loathesomely vacuous Mr Winterbottom's effort is.
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Old 29th Mar 2005, 15:45   #4
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Didn't Winterbottom direct the very first Cracker story, The Mad Woman in the Attic?

I rather enjoyed Jude, too. That doesn't help with this discussion, sorry.
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Old 29th Mar 2005, 15:47   #5
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As much as it was about the most depressing film I'd ever seen, I enjoyed Jude too.
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Old 29th Mar 2005, 16:04   #6
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Yes he did amner, and very well directed it was too (particularly the cathartic camera-rising-from-the-railway-lines at the end). I enjoyed his impressionistic urban drama Wonderland, where the music of Michael Nyman (who has worked with Winterbottom regularly) became almost a character in itself. It's the only soundtrack album I've ever bought - oh, apart from Magnolia.

Honey, I'm open to correction here, but aren't the Linklater/Hawke/Delpy, er, biology called Before Sunrise and Before Sunset, rather than Before Sunset and After Sunset?
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Old 29th Mar 2005, 19:04   #7
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Sorry, yes you're right. Was in too much of a hurry to dash off. If you doubt my word, take a look at what another pair of reviewers had to say here and here. As you can see, they too were far from impressed by Mr Winterbottom's 9 Songs.

Add: just found the Times review. Have taken the liberty of printing it out here, since Times online is only free for a short period.

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March 10, 2005

9 Songs
by james christopher




18, 69 mins


ACCORDING to a programme note, 9 Songs is the most sexually explicit film in history to be awarded an 18 certificate by the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC). It runs for exactly 69 minutes. If these are the kind of winning statistics that ring your bell, then hooray! Just don’t go expecting the arthouse bang of a lifetime. Michael Winterbottom’s latest experiment is a piece of bad pornography that seems to have got fatally mixed up with his record collection.

Margot Stilley is a 21-year-old American girl who meets Kieran O’Brien at a rock concert in London. They go back to his flat, chew each other’s nipples, snort drugs and roll up to another concert the following night. 9 Songs is neither sizzling porn nor provocative art. It’s a Groundhog Day of grungy live bands — filmed mostly at the Brixton Academy and Hackney Empire — and clumsy sex. It’s like stumbling home from a Britpop gig every ten minutes to discover the neighbours mating in your living room. “What on earth is the point?” you silently scream as the camera zooms in again on O’Brien’s heaving buttocks.

Without a plot, script, or back-story, the film flounders in the realm of the senseless.

I’m sure the award-winning director of In This World, 24 Hour Party People and Code 46 intended his unacclaimed masterpiece to be enjoyed as pure arthouse Viagra. I’ve rarely seen a film inspire so much droop. I nearly missed the messy “climax” that has had the tabloids spluttering into their teacups ever since the film was first screened in Cannes last May. She is “ beautiful, egotistical, careless and crazy”, swoons O’Brien. The naked Stilley, wisely, keeps her thoughts to herself. There are, of course, tensions in this doomed affair, and moody longueurs in which to soak up the scenery in O’Brien’s dingy flat. “What’s for supper?” is a gripping moment; and the improvised argument about the legality of Stilley’s prescription pills is almost animated.

The serious action is bedroom bondage and a blizzard of nosey jump cuts — a hallmark of Winterbottom’s hand-held styling. The appalling pretension is the sudden and inexplicable appearance of Antarctica, a continent whose sex appeal frankly escapes me. It transpires that our swarthy hunk is a member of the British Antarctic Survey Team when he’s not getting stoned, or having his abdomen massaged by a pair of PVC stiletto boots. There are shots of our hero zipping up his tent in the frosty wilderness, and stepping into fridges to manhandle long poles of ice. He might as well be a council bin man for all the relevance these scenes have upon the film. The only credential that really matters keeps bursting out of O’Brien’s sizeable underpants.

What bothers me about 9 Songs is not the sex but the fact that it’s impossible to work out what the director is being experimental about. The small saving grace is that the bands he persuaded to feature are raw and studiously cool: Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, the Von Bondies, Elbow, Primal Scream, the Dandy Warhols, Super Furry Animals and Franz Ferdinand. Did any of them have a clue what they were signing up for? And why showcase their anthems when Michael Nyman provides the tinkly melodies to the embarrassing sex?

The serious point is that if you’re going to push the envelope, at least put something useful in it. Less is simply not enough. 9 Songs may yet sting front pages for all the wrong reasons. The BBFC will surely find it impossible to deny the use of explicit footage in scores of films which are assembled with considerably more thought and meat. Will this open the floodgates of “sleaze”? I can’t see why not. The BBFC doesn’t have a leg to stand on if it has already put the seal of adult approval on an exercise as bankrupt as this.
And here I rest my case. I was bored watching it, now I'm bored talking about it. But hey - don't take my word for it - go see it. Who knows, it may butter your toast rather than cremating it to a cinder.
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Old 29th Mar 2005, 21:50   #8
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Of Winterbottom's output, I've seen Code-46 (lousy) and the refugee movie (excellent). I definately get the sense that he's an erratic sort.
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Old 16th Feb 2012, 12:51   #9
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Default Re: 9 Songs

Saw this last night via the freebie Netflix (or it might be LoveFilm) promo I'm currently getting. I have to be honest, I didn't mind it.

I thought it was intimate and pretty honest and the whole point was that sex is something that people just do. It's not meant to be particularly erotic to the watchers, it shouldn't be a plot point that makes you judge a horror movie nymphet so that it's OK when she gets sliced up, nor should it be an indicator that someone is crazy and sub-human. It's a thing that people do and shouldn't always be isolated for another purpose.

And sometimes it's exciting and sometimes it's dull and sometimes it's downright desultory. But I think that what they wanted to show was relatively normal people, who may even be a bit boring, having a bunk up.

And the music? Well, that's your taste, of course (I quite like the Primals and the Furries, who are trotted out here, and with all due deference would describe neither as tame or boring) but the point of that was surely that as twentysomethings a lot of people more easily associate their interactions with others via certain songs, irrespective of whether they're The Beatles, Radiohead, Ella Fitzgerald or The Cheeky Girls.

And the girl looked like one of my exes, but that's just me. And I think that's the point. It's just them.



PS. re the Cracker reference, above. The lad in this is Fitz's son, Mark (Kieran O'Brien).
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Old 30th Mar 2012, 20:53   #10
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Default Re: 9 Songs

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Originally Posted by HP View Post
The appalling pretension is the sudden and inexplicable appearance of Antarctica, a continent whose sex appeal frankly escapes me. It transpires that our swarthy hunk is a member of the British Antarctic Survey Team when he’s not getting stoned, or having his abdomen massaged by a pair of PVC stiletto boots.
This reminded me of Bill's comment on A Serbian Film:
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Vukmir is once referred to by Milos's wife as sounding like he's one of their countrymen on trial at the Hague. This line is the equivalent ofThe Last House on the Left ending with somebody saying "Plus, Vietnam"
Lousy shagging. Plus, Global Warming!
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