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I am very pleased to be able offer readers of this blog an exclusive first look at the teaser one-sheet for Shame, Steve McQueen‘s controversial new drama about a sex addict (Michael Fassbender) and his sister (Oscar nominee Carey Mulligan) that premiered at Venice — where Fassbender was named best actor — and played Telluride and Toronto in September, was acquired soon thereafter by Fox Searchlight, and will be released theatrically on December 2. The poster will be on display for the first time tomorrow night at the New York Film Festival’s gala red carpet screening of the film. (Text continues below image.)
McQueen and Fassbender first teamed up on Hunger (2008), a similarly gritty film about IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands, which was McQueen’s directorial debut and turned Fassbender into a hot commodity (He lost 38 pounds for the role). McQueen has not made a film since, but Fassbender has worked prolifically, starring in Quentin Tarantino‘s Inglourious Basterds (2009), Cary Fukunaga‘s Jane Eyre (2011), Matthew Vaughn‘s X-Men: First Class (2011), and David Cronenberg‘s A Dangerous Method (which is due out November 23), among others.
Many who caught Shame on the festival circuit, including yours truly, found it to be very impressive, but doubted if it would ever see the light of day — or, I should say, dark of a public theater. Why? Because it includes numerous scenes depicting full frontal nudity (including from Fassbender and Mulligan) and sexual activity (of a number of varieties), none of which can really be “edited around” since they pop up throughout the entire film and are integral to its plot. This meant that any studio interested in distributing the film would have to accept the fact that it will receive an NC-17 rating from the MPAA, which inherently limits the number of theaters in which it can be screened and publications in which it can be promoted.
Nevertheless, Searchlight decided to take a chance on it, presumably because they think that Fassbender and Mulligan’s gutsy performances might register with the Academy’s acting branch (which has been known to reward risky and risque work every so often, such Michelle Williams‘ in Blue Valentine last year). And, indeed, if any studio can turn Shame into an event movie and/or awards contender, it’s Searchlight, which has pulled more than a few rabbits out of hats in recent awards seasons, and, based on the release date for Shame, is still digging for another.
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