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9 Songs (0/10)

by Tony Medley

“Audiences know,” says director Michael Winterbottom, “that…when it comes to sex…it’s pretend. If sex is indicated at all, everyone knows it is a fake. So I started thinking for ‘9 Songs’ that we should make the sex real.”

To digress for a moment, this seems just a trifle disingenuous. Movies are comprised of actors acting. EVERYTHING is fake! Montgomery Clift didn’t really die at the end of “From Here to Eternity” (1953). The bullets were fake! Hillary Swank didn’t break her neck in “Million Dollar Baby” (2004). It was fake! When actors act, what they do is fake. And everyone knows it’s fake. When everything’s fake, why should sex be real? Clearly, Winterbottom just wanted to make a porn movie and threw this out as a hypocritical pretext. But it’s a pretext you have to be pretty stupid to swallow.

Back to Winterbottom’s movie. One problem was finding actors who would agree to actually have sex on screen. Winterbottom put out an ad. Of the first 60 responses, 59 were men.

Apparently he grabbed the first woman who remotely fit the obvious specifications (female and not terribly ugly), who turned out to be Margo Stilley, a model at an agency that “specialized in casting extras and small parts.” Winterbottom says, “Margo was the only woman we screen tested.” Yeah, read “the only woman who showed up,” and you’d probably be close to right.

The test was at a hotel with actor Kieran O’Brien, the only other actor in the movie and who was to play Margo’s sex partner. Although O’Brien had been in other Winterbottom films, when you see him in the buff, you can see he has one attribute for the role and it’s a big one.

The screen test was for O’Brien and Stilley to have sex on camera; the screen test shows up as the final sex scene in the movie where Stilley is penetrated onscreen.

Can Stilley act? Here are some of her longer speeches, repeated time and again;

“F___ me.”





Most of the rest of her dialogue is moaning and groaning as O’Brien does various things to her and director Winterbottom’s camera leaves nothing to the imagination. The question is, is she acting when she’s moaning and groaning? That’s the $64,000 question men have been asking since the dawn of time. Since Winterbottom is proud of the fact that the sex is “real,” maybe she was just relaxing and enjoying what O’Brien was doing to her. Clearly, however, O’Brien wasn’t acting. In one scene Stilley actually has him spurting sperm.

The film has no story. It’s an amalgamation of nine songs from concerts and nine scenes of sex. First the concert  footage, then the sex. Nine times. I wasn’t thrilled with the music, but the sex was so graphic and unerotic that I found myself wishing the songs wouldn’t end so we wouldn’t have to see the sex again. The camera lingered so long on the sex scenes that the 69 minute running time seemed much longer.

Stilley, it is said, is “eager to resume her private life.” Good idea. She’s going back to university, says Winterbottom. Maybe she can take O’Brien and Winterbottom with her and they can find some classes on morality. Actresses are always justifying onscreen nudity by saying it was “essential to the story.” There’s no justification for graphic sex onscreen. And it’s especially egregious when, not only is it not “essential” to the story, there is no story!

California Penal Code Section 647 says, in pertinent parts, “Every Person who commits any of the following acts is guilty of disorderly conduct:…

(a)   Who solicits anyone to engage in or who engages in lewd or dissolute conduct in any public place or in any place open to the public or exposed to public view.

(b)   Who solicits or who agrees to engage in or who engages in any act of prostitution…As used in this subdivision, “prostitution” includes any lewd act between persons for money or other consideration.

Why aren’t Winterbottom, O’Brien, and Stilley in violation of California law as a result of their acts in “9 Songs?” This movie is pernicious, per se. It shouldn’t be in general circulation and advertised as a “love story.” There is nothing about love in it. There is nothing that indicates that either knows anything about the other, other than how to bring each other to orgasm. Sex isn’t love. This isn’t about “love.” It’s about sex, period.

The sexiest movies are the ones that leave the most to your imagination. “Body Heat” (1981) was one of the sexiest movies and there was no sex and not even a hint of skin. The more we see, the less sensuality. But that takes talent, so maybe Winterbottom knew what he was doing in exposing everything.

With its graphic sex, there’s no plot, no acting, no script, and the cinematography is awful (I’m sure Winterbottom will try to convince everyone that its hand held camera and hard contrast lights and darks are artsy; they aren’t). This is nothing but hard core porn without any redeeming social value.

July 7, 2005