Every year there seems to be a shocking, controversial film at Cannes. A few years ago it was Gaspar Noe’s “Irreversible” (a really disturbing, powerful film… and incidentally, one of my favorites). This year, the main contender seems to be “Shortbus,” directed by John Cameron Mitchell.
I haven’t seen it yet (there’s a special screening for the students on Thursday that I plan to attend), and the reviews have been mixed, but every “real person” that I’ve spoken to has really loved it.
Unfortunately, it’s not a SAG film.
Normally, I don’t spend a lot of time talking about non-union films, but in this case I’ll make an exception because the only reason it isn’t a SAG signatory film is because SAG wouldn’t sign it.
After Mitchell’s hugely successful “Hedwig and the Angry Inch,” he decided to follow-up with “Short Bus,” a look at modern relationships… that just happens to include scenes of explicit, actual, unsimulated sex. Mitchell’s company approached SAG about signing the film to one of the low budget agreements, but SAG wouldn’t sign it. You see, SAG doesn’t sign pornographic films.
But the film was never meant to be pornographic, in the sense of being titillating without artistic merit. There’s no funky guitar soundtrack, pizza delivery boys, or silicone breasts in “Short Bus.” The film has an actual story, and sex is an integral part of it.
Before the film was shot, SAG asked me if I thought they should sign it. I told them they should. They didn’t listen to me.
It’s too early to say the film will be a smash hit (it still has to find market in the repressed, theocracy… I mean, the United States…), but I think it’s safe to say that any misconceptions about whether or not the film has artistic merit have been put to rest. It’s my understanding that WGA and DGA signed the film, but sadly, SAG came up… (sorry) short.
I’m really not trying to say “told you so.”
But unfortunately the success of the film is already doing that…