“Only connect…” wrote old EM Forster. John Cameron Mitchell’s (Hedwig And The Angry Inch) modish rummage around the ins and outs of the old in-out gathered headlines for featuring ‘real’ sex, but it’s more about bondage in the classical, unfetishy sense…

The character quirks have a neat, fable-like feel: it’s The Wizard Of Oz with fucking. A sex therapist (Sook-yin Lee) whose bedroom gymnastics are gynaecologically rigorous but never trigger the subtle spark that ignites orgasm… A dominatrix (Lindsay Beamish) who hits hard but craves softness… A gay couple (PJ DeBoy and Paul Dawson) experimenting with an open relationship – hoping distance will bring them closer…

At weekly sex/art/music/decadence club Shortbus, they all discover a kind of liberation (memorably, the freedom to sing ‘The Star- Spangled Banner’ into a sex partner’s rectum). Mostly though, elbows Mitchell extra-hard in case you miss it, they find themselves.

Shortbus isn’t pornography, but neither is it as daring or devilish as it thinks it is. At best, it’s bold, funny and bracing, presenting sex as a celebration of aliveness; non-religious, depoliticised, creative, expressive… Worst, it’s an up-itself art-school circle-jerk (check out the cast’s knuckle-gnawing primal-scream therapy in the Cannes Section of the Making Of).

The opening sequence is an audacious eye-popper (autofellatio; an anger-bang against a tinted-glass door; a jolt of man-fat splats across a Jackson Pollock...) but the pompous chat-track doc reveals how Mitchell’s urge to push the limits fogged his storytelling clarity.


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