It’s true, there are nine songs in 9 Songs, including concert performances by such cachet headbangers as Franz Ferdinand, the Dandy Warhols, and Super Furry Animals. It’s also true that nobody will go to see Michael Winterbottom’s sexually explicit, novelty-act drama — a naughty peep show for sobersides, disguised as a nature documentary — to hear the songs; everyone will go to see the shagging, which occupies the majority of the screen time.
Wait, that’s not entirely true: A few fetishists turned on by March of the Penguins may want to check out 9 Songs for the occasional shots of icy, shifting Antarctic land masses that Winterbottom includes, with deadpan art-house seriousness. The sex, you see, is being remembered in all its mutability and low-lit, musky, non-French grittiness by Matt (Kieran O’Brien, who also worked with Winterbottom on the director’s bopping 24 Hour Party People), a glaciologist who misses the heat of his short love affair with Lisa (newcomer Margo Stilley). Lisa was American, she was young, she was free and wild and hot to trot. And the couple trotted often and enthusiastically, between bouts of which they went to rock concerts and made out to the beat of Primal Scream and the Von Bondies.
But while Matt (a British blank) was in love, Lisa (an even blanker American) was more in like. And then she left for the U.S., causing Matt to abandon their bedsheets for ice sheets. Which is why Matt tells his story from a frigid platform at the ends of the earth. In deference to the seriousness of global warming (plus in light of the couple’s responsible use of condoms), the film is being released here unrated.
Anyhow, back to the shagging. It’s real — or as real as it can be between two actors naked in front of a camera — and sometimes it’s arousing. (That’s one woman’s opinion; results may vary.) But get this: The filmmaker has said he wants 9 Songs to be drama about real sex that’s not erotic. As if an admission of erotic intent somehow cheapens the aesthetics. And so a viewer’s question might reasonably be, Who are ya kidding? And also: Did Matt see any penguins Doing It down there in the Antarctic?