The Labia, that bastion of arthouse movies in Cape Town, has disappointed me in recent years. They hardly ever show a non-English movie, which is exactly what I’m so starved of when I do finally get to see a movie.

This week, I made my escape and saw the movie Shortbus. It was billed as the most explicit movie ever shown on the mainstream circuit, the actors had real, not simulated sex, and the poster depicted an orgy.

With not much else to go on, my expectations weren’t high – a typical skin flick, with the penises bigger than the plot.

So why did I go? To see the most explicit film ever released on the mainstream circuit, of course!

What a pleasant surprise! The movie was superb. Set in New York with a great computer-generated set in a toy style (I thought it was really built), it makes good symbolic use of the New York power outages. The actors workshopped the characters and story over 2 1/2, and it works.

Others have described it better than me:

John Mitchell, the director, quoted in the Wikipedia article: The sex in Shortbus is often purposefully “de-eroticized” in order to “remove the cloud of arousal to reveal emotions and ideas that might have been obscured by it”. The sexual scenes are often desperate, ridiculous and unsuccessful.

From the person I saw the film with: [I really liked] the deep humanity of the characters created by their need to connect at a human level. A definite must have as part of an art collection.

Mitchell again: In the old days, when you couldn’t show sex on film, directors like Hitchcock had metaphors for sex (trains going into tunnels, etc). When you can show more realistic sex, the sex itself can be a metaphor for other parts of the character’s lives. The way people express themselves sexually can tell you a lot about who they are.

Just for good measure, the music is superb too – there’s a sample here (and if that doesn’t convince you it’s not porn, nothing will!).

So what are you waiting for – it may be years before the Labia shows anything good again, and maybe you’ll even learn how men give themselves a blowjob 🙂



  1. That was quick 🙂 Just follow the Wikipedia link in the article, or try Amazon etc – seems to be easy to get hold of.

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