Mop and Bucket Cinema : Caffeinated Clint on Shame and Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

shamedragon

As icy Catherine Trammel likes to remind her partners mid-thrust, sex is dangerous. And that’s essentially the same message iconic-sounding filmmaker Steve McQueen is translating via his gloomy ode to celibacy, ”Shame’‘ (albeit, without the ice-pick prop).

A more confronting film you’re not likely to see, Shame, named so because of its lead character’s unhealthy and ultimately destructive appetite for sex, offers relative newcomer Michael Fassbender (”Inglourious Basterds”, ”X-Men Origins : Wolverine”) the chance to not only demonstrate his honed acting abilities – and he is sensational here – but take a full-frontal leak on camera.

But urine isn’t the only rarity getting some play in McQueen’s film, there’s also high-rise window humping, wall slams, a bottomless male lead for large chunks of the film, and an instructional guide for those unsure how to devour a happy meal. And fast food has nothing to do with it.

But with ”Shame”, McQueen doesn’t seem to be merely out to make David Cronenberg’s sex-in-car epic Crash or Larry Clark’s controversial teen-sex flick Ken Park look like an edited-for-prime-time episode of ”The Sopranos” – though he does succeed at that – he’s here to paint a realistic portrait of how caustic sex can be, and how ultimately life-threatening an addiction to it is.

McQueen and co-writer Abi Morgan serve up an in-your-face and unreserved yarn of a New Yorker (Fassbender) who is in constant pursuit of sex. Whether it be picking up girls from bars, hiring prostitutes or wandering desperately into gay sex clubs, it all starts to chip away at the over-emotional loose cannon. And when the equally-loose sister (an equally brave Carey Mulligan) turns up, ultimately ending up in bed with her brother’s boss (James Badge Dale), it sends sir sex-a-lot into a spin.

Delicately shot and infinitely engaging, ”Shame” is an effective reminder – albeit one with the stomach-churning ability to turn anyone off raw, unemotional sex – that sometimes you’re better off keeping it in your pants.

Meanwhile, “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” is equally as perfect forehead drippy fodder.

You normally wouldn’t advise one to ‘go over’ a Tattoo, but in the case of Stieg Larsson’s inked offering, it only illuminates the piece of art.

”The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” is Mesmerizing. Confronting. Thrilling. Sexy. Compelling. And so is the remake.

The Swedish smash, an erotic murder mystery that rocketed Noomi Rapace to superstardom and made the freakishly beautiful Lisbeth Salander one of our times most recognized heroines, was always going to get a Hollywood remake – what in this unsettling climate of “what can we exploit next?” and “I’m feeling lazy today, can we just hand in someone elses work?”, but luckily for us, David Fincher wanted to be the guy to remake it.

Fincher, one of today’s most original, most compelling and most audacious filmmakers, isn’t slumming it by merely replicating someone else’s film either. It’s a marriage made in.

You see, Larsson’s story is a stylish serial killer thriller that gets under your skin with its seamless ability to push its audience into not only investing but becoming very familiar with its equally flawed heroes and villains. Sounds not unlike the structure and tone of Fincher’s ”Se7en” and ”Zodiac”, no? Makes sense that ”Dragon Tattoo” be the concluding chapter in Fincher’s killer crime trilogy.

Unlike Fincher’s previous films though, much of the appeal of ”Dragon Tattoo” lies within its characters not the actual murder mystery.

Though the central plot, concerning a disgraced journalist and his crafty eccentric sidekick being hired to find a missing girl, is engaging, the story is really Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist.

Not only are they one of the most interesting and nonconformist couples to grace the screen, but Salander and Blomkvist are mesmerizing because they’re much more flawed and scarred than your typical Hollywood blockbuster heroine and hero. In fact, the two here are dissipated at times, and even plain spiteful in their plights, but at the end of the day, they’re just two humans looking for love and answers in a world gone mad.

Just as the Swedish film did, Fincher’s ”Dragon Tattoo” is coated in heavy-duty sex scenes, a horde of squeamish moments (including an uncomfortable rape scene) and it’s packed with another star-making performance from the lass playing Salander. Rooney Mara, who you’ll recall from her brief but memorable role as Mark Zuckerberg’s offended date at the start of Fincher’s ”Social Network”, gives an amazingly brave and brilliant performance as the Goth girl cum crack investigator. Just as Rapace did in the original, Mara let’s it all hang out here and is determined to give audiences a close-up view of the emotional and physical scars that bear Lisbeth Salander’s frame. Hard work playing a character like this, but whoever said winning an Oscar was easy?

It’s plot isn’t any more complicated or challenging than a ”Kiss the Girls” or ”The Vanishing”, but what keeps ”Dragon Tattoo”’s fire fuelled is it’s electric performances, a fine attention to detail, credible characters and, in this case, enthusiastic direction.