As sexy brit Matt (Kieran O’Brien), a glaciologist, flies over the Antarctic, he reminisces about an affair that’s just ended with lusty young American Lisa (Margo Stilley). “When I think of Lisa,” he says, “I don’t think of her clothes ...” Nor do we, Matt, as we didn’t see her wearing many.

There isn’t an orifice on these two that writer-director Michael Winterbottom leaves unexplored, all filmed up close and personal for your viewing pleasure — or displeasure, if you see it that way.

Pretty much all the two do is go at it, with cameras zooming in, leaving no penetrating thrust to the imagination. Then the dialogue hits you like a cold shower. A typical scene: “Come inside me. Come inside me,” Lisa says during a breakfast-time romp in the kitchen. They moan, dismount, and she brightly asks Matt, “Coffee?”

When the pretty, shallow couple isn’t having sex, they’re going to rock shows at London’s Brixton Academy. The lineup — Detroit’s own Von Bondies, Franz Ferdinand, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club — is enough to give any garage rock geek a hard-on, but Matt and Lisa probably took care of that already.

Winterbottom’s work is generally fabulous and provocative (Jude; In This World), and he’s no stranger to providing fodder for music fans (24 Hour Party People). So is he using his art-house cred to make porn under the guise of a serious film? Possibly; but as edgy and explicit as 9 Songs is, it’s also rather dull.

Winterbottom’s goal, he says, is to tell a story about a relationship through sex and music, without erotic fantasy. That means in 9 Songs every bump has its accompanying grinding, ejaculation looks nothing like hair gel, and actual nipples were probably harmed in the making of this film. Nothing looks glossed-over, but there’s really no joy in all the sex. The quest for realism bleeds into the nine musical performances, and the results are equally disappointing.

Winterbottom wants you to feel like one of the sweaty, swaying throngs, and bobbing heads and random hands obscure views of the bands. The din of the crowd also pollutes the music, so essentially the performances look and sound like some drunk shot them with his cell phone.

The problem is that ideally music, like sex, is a participatory activity. If you can’t be there, the next best thing is a little fantasy. Winterbottom leaves no room for fantasizing or romance, so it becomes an issue of quality over quantity. Even with the copious amount of sex and rock ’n’ roll, 9 Songs too quickly grows tiresome. Realism isn’t always a good thing.


Showing at the Main Art Theatre (118 N. Main St., Royal Oak; 248-263-2111).

Clare Pfeiffer Ramsey writes about film for Metro Times. E-mail [email protected].

Scroll to read more Arts Stories & Interviews articles


Join Detroit Metro Times Newsletters

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.