UPDATE: Scroll down for a first clip from "Shame."
If two critically lauded films make a director "rising," then rising director Steve McQueen premiered his second film, "Shame," at Venice, starring Hollywood's favorite new character actor, Michael Fassbender. McQueen, a contemporary artist who only recently began trying his hand at feature films, first gained attention with "Hunger," a film about the 1981 Irish hunger strike that also features Fassbender (and which you can stream on Netflix Instant).
McQueen moves from one primal desire to another in "Shame," which follows the life of a man who is addicted to sex and has it at least once a day in creative locations across Manhattan. His routine is upset when his sister, Sissy (Carey Mulligan), comes for a visit.
Fassbender is also in Venice for the premiere of "A Dangerous Method," in which he plays a sexually conflicted Carl Jung. He expressed some discomfort at playing the graphic scenes in "Shame":
"Just have to jump into it," Fassbender said. "The most important thing, I suppose, is just make sure that everybody involved is comfortable, and just sort of go for it so you don't have to do too many takes."
It seems to have paid off, though, as the critics agree it's all very much in the service of art. Read on for more opinions from Venice:
Xan Brooks for the Guardian: "Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan give dynamite performances in Shame, a terrific second feature from the British artist Steve McQueen... This is fluid, rigorous, serious cinema; the best kind of adult movie." Grade: 4 out of 5 stars
Dave Calhoun for Time Out London: "Like 'Hunger', 'Shame' is interested in the stark immediacy of one man's world and drawing us into that world without judgement or easy explanations... You imagine McQueen feels there's a lot of many - or all - of us in Brandon, even if his troubles feel quite uniquely tragic in the moment." Grade: 4 out of 5 stars
Guy Lodge for In Contention: "It's no slight on the actors, and only a measure of the hand guiding them, that McQueen remains the star here. Like the finest filmmakers from a fine-arts background, he has a consistently rewarding understanding of the narrative powers of composition: abetted by heaving, tricky sound design and Harry Escott's counter-intuitively soaring score, 'Shame' conjures image upon image of such astonishing beauty that they'd risk stalling the film if not for the spare depth of feeling grounding the whole." Grade: 3 1/2 stars out of 4
Oliver Lyttelton for Playlist: "McQueen, like almost no other filmmaker, is confident enough to frame up and let the actors work, and it's the source of most of the film's most memorable moments... Not a single composition or camera movement is wasted, and if anything, it feels like McQueen is even more in command of his craft than he was before, if such a thing is possible... the film is a powerful, beautifully acted sophomore film, and more than ever, we'll be watching what McQueen does next like a hawk." Grade: A-
Overall Grade: A-
"Shame" does not currently have a U.S. release date.
WATCH a press conference with the cast/director of "Shame" and a first clip from the film: