You Won’t Find Me in the Matinee

Far more than attitues to on-screen sex, the 9 Songs saga has shown up reviewers’ difficulties with music. The issue is key in 9 Songs because in some ways it’s a concert film. Some reviews have attempted to relate the songs to the rest of the film, making the live tracks diegetic, but I don’t think that line will fly, partly because the tracks are so instantly forgettable. The other problem is the music itself. While critics see no problems in pointing out a bad script or poor performance, soundtracks get a relatively easy ride. Here most of them seem to have accepted the film’s own propaganda, thus Super Furry Animals, according to Sight & Sound, belong to “the cream of the contemporary music scene”.
The real failings of the film follow from the increasingly bizarre MO of director Michael Winterbottom. This, from an interview with leading man Kieran O’Brien in the Telegraph, explains a lot: “Michael would say ‘Just talk to each other’. So you would think you were doing nothing and the take could last half an hour. You’d think ‘oh I didn’t do any good work there’ and Michael would say ‘excellent’ and we’d move on.” Indeed.
Our friend SS has defended the dialogue against “critics who we can safely assume don’t recite passages from Chekhov in their own bedrooms,” but his own comparison, Before Sunset, demonstrates how effective and affecting seemingly improvised non-theatrical dialogue can be. 9 Songs just isn’t in that class.
The sex itself? Here’s the Guardian‘s reliably wrong Peter Bradshaw: “9 Songs will undoubtedly have a chorus of pundits ostentatiously stifling their yawns in print. To which I can only say – boring? Gosh, really? Is that why all those male journalists in the audience were gulping and surreptitiously recrossing their legs? Because they thought it was boring?” Interesting he should have mentioned only the “male” journalists, but at the screening I attended there was none of this kind of thing, although the use of Michael Nyman’s music over the sex scenes provoked the odd titter.