2006Director: John Cameron Mitchell
Cast: Sook-Yin Lee, Paul Dawson, Lindsay Beamish
o, Shortbus. Not to sound overly pompous, but I really do feel that I saw this movie in the precise way that it is best seen. First off, as a 20-something Canadian male, I spent many-a-boyhood afternoon watching Sook-Yin Lee on Much Music, pondering what she would look like pulling a vibrating pink egg from her vagina and attacking it with a wooden leg. Now I know.
Much more importantly, though, I saw it in exactly the right place: The Princess. As the oldest theatre in my city, it’s by all rights a single screen, but some years ago—after being rescued from its era as a “blue” theatre by some conscientious patrons of the arts—a second screen was added. Not a full-sized, normal screen, of course, but a tiny one, accessible only though a single side door that is unlocked ten minutes before the screening and leads to a narrow, dank stairwell descending into a cramped and leaky basement where few but a handful of 36 year-old grad students dare to tread. This is where I saw Shortbus—alone—while all of the ordinary hipster kids watched Marie Antoinette upstairs.
Why is any of this important? Because there is a point in the film where Justin Bond explains the name of his club: you have your full-sized yellow school busses and you have your short, little ones for the “special” kids. Shortbus is a club, and a film, for the “gifted and challenged.” So, despite being considerably more challenged than gifted, I became proud of my run-down little shortbus of a theatre. I realized that this film has taken on the very nature of that which it depicts—and it’s wonderful for that.
The movie tells the story of a group of shell-shocked, post 9/11 New Yorkers that come together in a perfectly vibrant community that is outside the realm of good taste and social acceptability. It is a stroke of true artistry that John Cameron Mitchell has crafted his film likewise—surely in bad taste to many, but undeniably vibrant. My aforementioned Sook-Yin fantasizing aside, I know nothing of the sexual escapades of Shortbus, yet even to these square eyes, the film is glowingly genuine. It succeeds as a portrayal of a community because it is of that community. For that reason, the much-publicized, explicit, and real sex is not only essential to the film—the film would be nothing without it.
Maybe it was in virtue of little Princess II (which I shall now dub “Shortbus Theatre”) that I was able to relate to Mitchell’s film despite being so far removed from the community of its characters. I asked a lot of people to come to Shortbus Theatre and watch it with me, and sitting alone in my seat, I really felt the characters’ need to find a sense of belonging. We all have that need, after all. Even if we do ride the shortbus.
Shortbus is currently playing in limited release.
By: Luke de Smet
Published on: 2006-10-31