Film review: '9 Songs' confuses love and sex

Published: Friday, Aug. 12 2005 12:00 a.m. MDT

Nothing says love like sessions of casual, sometimes unprotected sex, sandwiched between rock concerts, lines of cocaine and visits to strip clubs.

Michael Winterbottom's surprisingly dull relationship drama "9 Songs," which has already been called the most explicit sexual movie in British cinematic history, suffers by confusing love and sex.

In fact, with its unflinching, close-up, digitally photographed scenes of sex (there's clear evidence here to suggest that very little is simulated), the film could easily be taken for porn. And the awkward performances by actors Kieran O'Brien and Margo Stilley certainly don't help.

O'Brien stars as an Englishman named Matt, who has the rather unlikely job of glacier scientist. He's headed to Antarctica for a new research project when he begins reflecting on his relationship with Lisa (Stilley), a free-spirited American.

The two met at a Black Rebel Motorcycle Club concert and began their sexual relationship afterward. However, she's content to limit their affair to concertgoing and post-show rendezvous, while he clearly has more of an emotional attachment.

Frankly, it's hard to understand exactly what Matt sees in Lisa, aside from the fact that she's promiscuous — you'd think he'd be turned off by her taste for recreational drugs and lap dances. And Stilley seems so emaciated that her rib cage is her most striking feature.

Stilley, a newcomer to film, also appears to be having a hard time improvising her own dialogue. But the more experienced O'Brien (who worked with Winterbottom on "24 Hour Party People") really isn't much better.

The one thing the film really has going for it is concert footage of such acts as Franz Ferdinand, Super Furry Animals, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and the Dandy Warhols. Those are the only moments with a pulse.

"9 Songs" isn't rated but would probably get an NC-17 for graphic scenes of sex and other sexual contact (only some of which seems to be simulated), close-ups of full male and female nudity, some strong drug content (cocaine use), occasional use of strong sexual profanity and other crude sexual talk. Running time: 69 minutes.


E-mail: jeff@desnews.com