9 Songs (18)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner10/03/2005

Two out of Five stars
Running time: 69 mins

Nine Songs? Nine Shags, more like. An interesting idea that doesn’t quite work, this is a surprisingly dull film, considering all the fuss about its explicit content.

Every so often a film comes along that pushes the boundaries of what is deemed permissible by the BBFC when it comes to sex on film. In recent years we’ve had Romance (ejaculation onto the body), The Pornographer (ejaculation onto the face) and Intimacy (explicit blow-job scene), although it’s interesting to note that Romance and The Pornographer both had their ‘ground-breaking’ scenes cut when they were released on video.

Film Exceedingly Dull Despite Explicit Nature

At any rate, Michael Winterbottom’s 9 Songs is the latest film to join that illustrious group and the BBFC have rightly decided to release it uncut. Unfortunately, however, the film itself is extremely dull and the best that can be said of it is that at least it’s better than Intimacy, largely because it doesn’t have Timothy Spall in it.

As the title suggests, there isn’t really much of a plot. We meet Matt (Kieran O’Brien) as he’s flying over Antarctica, for no particular reason other than to provide a clumsy metaphor: “Antarctica is like two people in a bed - agoraphobia and claustrophobia in the same place”.

He then flashes back to his relationship with an American student called Lisa (Margo Stilley) as the pair meet at a gig, have a lot of sex, do cocaine, chat a bit and go to eight more gigs over the course of a summer before breaking up. And that’s literally it, though thankfully it’s mercifully short at a not entirely uncoincidental 69 minutes.

Winterbottom’s stated intention was to tell the story of a relationship through explicit sex scenes. Though this is, in essence, an interesting idea, it’s completely undermined by his subsequent directorial choices, in particular the fact that he left his actors to improvise their dialogue scenes, all of which are mind-numbingly awful. The result is that we never get to know or care about the characters so the fact that they’re having sex ceases to have any meaning.

The sex is undoubtedly explicit (there’s no ‘Are they? Aren’t they?’ debate here) but it isn’t remotely exciting or titillating and anyone looking for pornography will be sorely disappointed.

Zero Chemistry Between Actors

The film isn’t really helped by the fact that O’Brien and Stilley have zero chemistry together. They’re not even particularly good actors. Another problem is that the songs of the title seem under-used - they function only as breaks between the sex scenes as opposed to actual points in the relationship, e.g. ‘The song that was playing when we met’, ‘The song where we had our first argument’ etc.

That said, the songs are actually the best part of the film and there is some great concert footage from gigs featuring bands such as The Von Bondies, The Dandy Warhols, Super Furry Animals and Franz Ferdinand.

In short, it’s a shame that Winterbottom wasn’t able to achieve his original aim of adapting Platform (the explicit novel by Michel Houellebecq) because 9 Songs is a disappointing film that fails to either titillate or entertain.

Film Trailer

9 Songs (18)
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Content updated: 19/08/2018 12:44

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