XXX-istential

"Shortbus" combines confused twenty-somethings with "Deep Throat"

Sara Nicole Miller

Periwinkle blue horizons, shifting cinematic textures and jumpy editing play out amid a psychedelic, Mr. Rogers-style animated skyline of Manhattan. Fast, scatty jazz romances background noise as the scenes cut from a windowsill of dildos – in a variety of colors and shapes – to a couple in the thick of nooky time, to an emotional act of autofellatio.

Welcome to the Shortbus.

“It’s just like the ’60s, only with less hope,” coos the NYC speakeasy’s tranny chanteuse Justin Bond.

“Shortbus” follows the intersecting lives of a group of frisky New Yorkers in a disillusioned, post-9/11 urban America. All of their frustrations, joys and woes intersect at “Shortbus,” a weekly underground speakeasy.

The big question to ask about “Shortbus” is: is it porn or is it not? Many would mortifyingly exclaim, fists shaking in the air, that since the film does indeed depict acts of intercourse (yes, folks, there is penetration), then call a spade a spade, so to speak.

However, the film is far from obscene. Stylistically, it doesn’t objectify and dehumanize the participants. The sex is positive, lighthearted and is used to illustrate aspects of the characters’ humanness and intimate relations. And there are no fluffers required.

Among the Shortbus’ guests: Sofia (Sook-Yin Lee), a sex therapist who is “preorgasmic,” meaning she has yet to experience the big O. Chablis is a quirky performance artist who holds an interest in the ruby-emblazoned messy elegance of “period pieces.” And a former closeted New York City mayor comes to terms with the guilt of not doing more to prevent the AIDS crisis.

Severin (Lindsay Beamish), a dominatrix with intimacy issues whose real name is Jennifer Aniston, comes to Sofia’s aid in dealing with her orgasmic deficiencies, while a gay couple tries to decide whether to open up their relationship.

“Shortbus”

DIRECTED BY: John Cameron Mitchell
NG: Lindsay Beamish, Paul Dawson, P J DeBoy, and Sook-Yin Lee.
RATED: Not Rated (18-plus)
SHOWING AT: Lagoon Cinema, (612) 825-6006

Directed by John Cameron Mitchell, the same chap who directed and starred in 2001’s “Hedwig and the Angry Itch,” the film is an interactive, collaborative exploration of vaudeville-style postmodern human frolics and follies.

The actors played an interactive role in helping Mitchell write the script, and many of them are making their film debut in “Shortbus.” Singer/songwriter Bitch – from the Righteous Babe queercore group Bitch and Animal – is just one of an array of fringe artists who make an appearance.

Unlike some artistic endeavors where sex serves as a bumpy interlude in the narrative, in “Shortbus” the eroticism is woven into the storyline. The sexual liaisons freakily exemplify – in their more tender moments – the constructing of identity and the longing for human interaction.

Mitchell approaches the liaisons and sexual shortcomings of the characters with an endearing, tender naïvety. Part politicized testament to the backwardness of censorship, part love child of a lust-hungry, sheltered generation, “Shortbus” encourages all voyeurs and curious onlookers to lighten the load of their proverbial loins. In doing so, it taps into those little lost parts of us.