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USA Distributor Trials For Steve McQueen's "Shame" Driven By Controversial Subject Matter

Photo of Tambay A. Obenson By Tambay A. Obenson | Shadow and Act September 7, 2011 at 2:15AM

Word on the street (from articles I read on both Deadline and The Hollywood Reporter) this morning are that, thanks to it explicit depictions of the symptoms of sexual addiction - including "male and female full-frontal nudity, graphic depictions of straight/gay/threeway sex, masturbation, urination and a gruesome suicide attempt," as THR puts it, Steve McQueen's sophomore feature directorial effort Shame, which stars Michael Fassbender, Carey Mulligan and Nicole Beharie, is guaranteed an "NC-17" rating here in the USA.
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Word on the street (from articles I read on both Deadline and The Hollywood Reporter) this morning are that, thanks to it explicit depictions of the symptoms of sexual addiction - including "male and female full-frontal nudity, graphic depictions of straight/gay/threeway sex, masturbation, urination and a gruesome suicide attempt," as THR puts it, Steve McQueen's sophomore feature directorial effort Shame, which stars Michael Fassbender, Carey Mulligan and Nicole Beharie, is guaranteed an "NC-17" rating here in the USA.

That is unless McQueen acquiesces to likely MPAA requests to re-edit the film so that it tones down some of its graphic representations.

However, as both Deadline and THR note, McQueen is definitely not open to slicing up the film any further, and wants interested distributors to buy and release the film as is.

But that's proving to be a challenge, as, while the film does have a UK release date already scheduled, no American distributor has claimed it yet for the USA market, despite there being "abundant conversation and buyer interest as it heads to Toronto," says THR.

Some of that conversation has also included the film's potential on the awards circuit, as Fassbender's performance especially, has drawn much critical acclaim since the film's Venice & Telluride screenings a few days ago. However, again, it's explicitness and what might be seen as McQueen's *stubbornness" by some on the inside, presents the film with considerable limitations.

As Deadline notes, "without the 55-plus crowd this art picture will die and the potential NC-17 will drive them away," referring to the older Academy voters, who belong to a group that has been especially split on the film thus far. Reportedly, at the Telluride screening, many of the older members of the audience walked out long before the film's denouement.

Although, this certainly isn't the first time American audiences have had to deal with a critically acclaimed work that was also notorious for its sexual elements; so how much more difficult is this particular scenario? I don't know. I haven't seen the film, and can't really compare it to anything that came before it, like say Bernardo Bertolucci's Last Tango in Paris for example, which initially received an "X" rating when it was initially released in 1972. But that certainly didn't completely alienated Academy voters as the film received Oscar nominations in 2 major categories - Best Actor (for Marlon Brando) and Best Director for Bertolucci.

"We knew we were going to be uncompromising... We always knew that we needed to make a film that was strong and powerful and talked about -- elements of how we live now and the spectrum of sexuality and access to pornography around the world. And we knew we were going to need a team of people in the U.S. who were going to be brave. That is our selling point. Our selling point is that we've not been shy."

Words from the film's producer Iain Canning - whose last work (The King's Speech) made a bit of a splash itself on Oscar night; let's see whether Shame sees a similar kind of success.

First, it has to find a distributor willing to take it on and bring it to audiences in the USA.

I'm looking forward to finally seeing it myself when it screens at the New York Film Festival in about 3 weeks; of course my own informed thoughts will follow soon thereafter.

But if anything, all the controversy surrounding the film should only generate further interest from audiences who may be curious to see what the fuss is all about.

This article is related to: Film Festival, FYI, Things That Make You Go Hmm...


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