Preview by: Jack Foley
THE most sexually explicit British film in UK cinema history
received its premiere at Cannes, and had people gasping because
of the graphic nature of its scenes.
Nine Songs, which is directed by Michael Winterbottom (of 24
Hour Party People and Jude), features real sex scenes, including
fellatio, ejaculation and cunnilingus - many in close-up.
But while some of the scenes are said to be borderline pornographic,
the film, at its heart, is a love story between two people, intercut
with music from bands including Franz Ferdinand, Black Rebel Motorcycle
Club, Primal Scream and The Dandy Warhols.
Nine Songs revolves around a young couple in London, Matt and
his American girlfriend, Lisa (played by Kieran OBrien and
The sex scenes take up more than half of the film, but are intercut
with scenes of the bands playing, while the story is framed by
shots of Matt flying over the plains of Antarctica, recalling
the relationship he had from afar.
Both the films stars, director and composer, Michael Nyman, have
been keen to defend it from allegations of exploitation.
Amazingly, despite the intimate nature of the footage, Stilley
was unknown to OBrien prior to filming, and even though
he confesses to not fancying her, he maintains he became fiercely
protective towards her on the set.
She has chosen not to publicise the movie and her name does not
appear in the closing titles, according to various online reports.
Speaking at the festival, O'Brien tackled the sceptics head on,
by noting: "There is no film like this, it is so graphic.
If people ask, 'why make this film?' I would say 'why not?'
"People who have seen it, even though they are forewarned
about how explicit it is, come out of the cinema saying they can't
believe that it's so explicit," he continued.
"But people who say they find it offensive are liars. If
they say they find it shocking, I don't believe them," maintained
OBrien is no stranger to Winterbottoms work, having
appeared in 24 Hour Party People. But he candidly describes the
director as someone capable of producing extraordinary stuff
and said that he fully believed in his vision of exploring
an intimate relationship and tell it predominantly through love-making.
"It's fortunate that I know him, so we have that trust,
and I didn't question why he wanted me to do a scene," he
Winterbottom went on to describe the film as a reaction to prudish
films being made at the moment.
He said: "I had been thinking for a while about the fact
that most cinematic love stories miss out on the physical relationship,
and if it is indicated at all, everyone knows it is fake.
"Books deal explicitly with sex, as they do with any other
"But cinema has been extremely conservative and prudish.
I wanted to go to the opposite extreme and show a relationship
only through sex. Part of the point of making the film was to
say, 'What's wrong with showing sex?'"
He maintains that filming such explicit scenes, and making them
real, was only taking a natural step forward, but he did concede
that if certain scenes, such as the fellatio-ejaculation moment,
threatened to place it at odds with the censor, they could always
be taken out.
The film has yet to receive a certificate - although the reaction
from the festival has largely been positive - despite the fact
that the film was screened for journalists at the somewhat early
hour of 10am!