Toronto: Steve McQueen's Shame, a new NYC classic

At Toronto, a new NYC classic unspools

Michael Fassbender in Shame

Michael Fassbender in Shame

And then, like that, Toronto offers up a title that makes my attendance so rewarding. Stepping out into the night air after yesterday's screening of the transfixing Shame, I loved and ached for my city. Even if no one in the wrecked audience had the courage to ask its director, visual artist Steve McQueen, if any resonances to 9/11 were intended, there was no avoiding them. (Indeed, if we were making this list of the 20 essential NYC films today, there's no way Shame wouldn't be on it; that's how major it feels.) Like American Psycho, a drama that the movie strongly resembles, it's about a deviant: a sex addict who thrusts away a deeper sense of emptiness. Michael Fassbender invests his closed-off character, Brandon, with a surprising degree of complexity; Carey Mulligan, also in this week's exquisite Drive, plays Brandon's equally damaged sister, a club singer and fuckup. But what makes Shame so ruinous and powerful are its many quiet moments: forlorn subway waits, a late-night jog on 31st St, the gray and glinting town impressively nailed by McQueen, a Brit. Far from literal, Shame is about wounds that can't heal. It feels raw in a way that few New York movies have rarely dared. You may have seen and loved McQueen's debut, 2008's Hunger; this one's even better, and quietly political in its own way. If I watch no other film at TIFF (or even this year?), I will have found total connection with the essence of why I need movies to survive.

RECOMMENDED: Full coverage of the Toronto Film Festival

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