Thursday, September 27, 2012

ENG 281 Week 7: Shortbus (USA: John Cameron Mitchell, 2006)

Shortbus (USA: John Cameron Mitchell, 2006: 101 mins)

"In the old days, when you couldn't show sex on film, directors like Hitchcock had metaphors for sex (trains going into tunnels, etc). When you can show more realistic sex, the sex itself can be a metaphor for other parts of the character's lives. The way people express themselves sexually can tell you a lot about who they are. Some people ask me, 'Couldn't you have told the same story without the explicitness?'. They don't ask whether I could've done Hedwig without the songs. Why not be allowed to use every paint in the paintbox?" --John Cameron Mitchell, "How to Shoot Sex: A Docu-Primer" (2007): Shortbus Region 1 DVD release (Th!nk Film)

Adams, Tim. "Everybody's Doing It..." The Guardian (November 26, 2006)

Aftab, Kaleem. "Shortbus." Collective (November 30, 2006)

Ballard, J.G. "Car Crash"; "Sex x Technology = The Future"; "Pornography"; "How I Work." Quotes (San Francisco: Re:Search, 2004: 238-247; 277-279; 332-333.

Benton, Michael Dean. "American Sex and Sexuality 2.0" Dialogic(May 27, 2010)

---. "Gender and Sexuality at the Carnegie Center." North of Center (January 29, 2010)

---. "Getting off on John Cameron Mitchell’s Shortbus: American Sex and Sexuality." North of Center (March 30, 2011)

---. "Review of Straightlaced: How Gender’s Got Us All Tied Up." North of Center (October 13, 2010)

Browning, Barbara, et al. "The Lure and the Blur of the Real." Philoctetes (March 13, 2010)

Crowell, Steven. "Existentialism." Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Revised edition: 2010)

Dargis, Manohla. "Naughty and Nice in a Carnal Carnival." The New York Times (October 4, 2010)

Deep Throat (USA: Gerard Damiano, 1972: 61 mins)

Dubowski, Sandi. "Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret: John Cameron Mitchell pushes the sexual boundaries once again in Shortbus." Filmmaker (Fall 2006)

"Existentialism." Wikipedia

Fauth, Jürgen. "Shortbus." About (No Date)

Foucault, Michel. "Of Other Spaces." (This text, entitled "Des Espace Autres," and published by the French journal Architecture /Mouvement/ Continuité in October, 1984, was the basis of a lecture given by Michel Foucault in March 1967.)

Hudson, David. "Sex in the Movies." Green Cine (2005)

Jhally, Sut. "Codes of Gender: Identity and Performance in Popular Culture." (Media Education Foundation, 2009) [documentary--available online]

Lewis, Jon. "Real sex: aesthetics and economics of art-house porn." Jump Cut #51 (Spring 2009)

Macio. "Redefining Our Relationships: An Interview with Wendy-O Matik." Revolution By the Book (February 19, 2010)

Oshima, Nagisa. "Sexual Poverty" Cinema, Censorship, and the State: The Writings of Nagisa Oshima. The MIT Press, 1993

Wikipedia (No Date)

"Sexual Orientation." Wikipedia (No Date)

Shaw, Richard. "Are the U.S.A.'s Independent Films a Distinct National Cinema?" The Film Journal (2002)

Williams, Linda. "Film Bodies: Gender, Genre and Excess." Film Quarterly 44.4 (Summer 1991): 2-13.

---. "Hard-Core Art Film: The Contemporary Realm of the Senses." Quaderns portàtils #13 (2008)

Wypijewski, JoAnn. "Sexual Healing: Carnal Knowledge." The Nation (September 9, 2009)


  1. This is probably my favorite film we have watched in class so far. Very thought-provoking. Also going through these videos really had a big impact as well. When I saw the song "Hurt" by Nine Inch Nails (& Johnny Cash) I was surprised because I have a history with this song, but I was confused as to why it was under the "Shortbus" post. But then I realized that the themes of this movie were much deeper then how it first appears. There is so much that can be explored with this film.

    I love the connection people can feel between music and films, and all art really.

    If anyone's interested- a few years ago I made a video with the song "Hurt" by NIN to the movie "The Basketball Diaries". (really bad quality though)

  2. Hi Shannon,

    As you know, this is one of my top ten films.

    It is very thought-provoking and leads me to ponder human relationships. In a world in which we are so constantly connected through technology (remember the Yenta and James hand held camera and the voyeur's camera), how come so many people are separated, even as they circulate in our most populous cities?

    I included Hurt because it reminds me of the numbing pain James and Severin feel in Shortbus. The discussion between the two when they are locked in the closet and they are talking about James initiation into hustling, Severin sitting all alone in the garage-home soaking her feet with the pictures of strangers all over her walls, the image of James in his film where he has bandages all over his body........ The two versions also seemed appropriate as they are two very powerful, yet very different embodiments of that "hurt" (different archetypes, different points in life, different musical styles). Notice in the NIN video for the song where the people are playfully throwing things and jumping up/down in the audience as Trent is painfully twisted while singing this emotional song..... baffles me, as I am generally transfixed, by this image and unable to move... it is so painful, yet questing for something else.

    Hurt seems much more active in spirit than either character (strange, Severin, a passive dominatrix?) throughout the film, but the progression to "I will find a way" at the end seemed appropriate.

    The Joy Division song was included for two reasons -- one I was thinking of their song Dead Souls ("Someone take these dreams away. That point me to another day. A dual of personalities. That stretch all reality." It was remade by Nine Inch Nails and included in the soundtrack for The Crow), but it didn't quite fit ... Ian Curtis, probably as a result of my watching the film Control, in my mind is a tragic example of a person who had much to live for, but was never able to escape that hurt and this song about love tearing people apart ... seemed appropriate.

    I'll check out your video -- thanks!