As tropes go the idea of an intellectual porn film is one of those holy grails for people inclined to create such forms. Similarly the idea of a collection of music videos with a cohesive narrative that conveys more than the sum of a collection of tracks is one goal of a director of this format. I have to say from the outset that I share neither of these inclinations, and view the second as only having the semblance of an admirable endeavour, so my views can be discounted without going any further.
Let me lay it flat: 9 Songs is a Rock and Roll film, it celebrates and documents a slice of life of two people who have an affair and live the Rock and Roll lifestyle of “sex, drugs and rock and roll’. It is also a music video collection so by stating the actual 9 songs you may be able to judge for yourself whether a collection of live performances set against the background of graphic sex and drug use is for you.
“Whatever Happened to My Rock and Roll”, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
“C’mon, C’mon”, The Von Bondies
“Fallen Angel”, Elbow
“Movin’ on Up”, Primal Scream
“You Were the Last High”, The Dandy Warhols
“Slow Life”, Super Furry Animals
“Jacqueline”, Franz Ferdinand
“Debbie”, Michael Nyman
I must admit that listening to the lyrics of the Primal Scream track gave me greater respect for this band’ lyrical insight. However I will not be writing further about the music except to say that at times it was used as a plot device to mark the end of the affair of the couple presented and to indicate the intellectual credentials of the male lead. The Michael Nyman track is to indicate the Matt is a serious man with interests outside of having sex and taking drugs with a desirable, willing and obliging woman. He is a climatologist and there are moments interspersed in the film of his work activities. At such times the pretensions of the film to rise above a skin flick are demonstrated in the dialogue:
Matt: â€œExploring the Antarctic is like exploring space. You enter a void, thousands of miles, with no people, no animals, no plants. You’re isolated in a vast, empty continent. Claustrophobia and agoraphobia in the same place, like two people in a bed.â€
However generally the words sparkle with such well written lines as:
Lisa: “You are so boring today. Boring… bo-ring… I’m sure there’s someone named Bo… Bo Ring. Bo Derek.”
Lisa: “hose glasses look so ugly.”
Matt: “I’m trying to look ugly.”
Lisa: “They look stupid.”
Matt: “‘m trying to look stupid.”
So that ruins it for the idea of the film trying at least to move to the erotica genre and aiming for art-house credibility. Further there is a disturbing undercurrent to the depiction of roles here. It is like Jean-Jacques Beineix’ 1986 film Betty Blue, there is a beautiful erotic and sexually driven young woman who begins a relationship and over time, after a great deal of steamy sex, the woman becomes psychologically unraveled and eventually hospitalised. 9 songs doesn’ take the idea of the “sexualised woman as insane’ psychological portrayal this far. Such character portrayal is viewed by some psychiatrists/psychologists and gender theorists as a form of social control over gender identity rather than of any true pathology. It certainly marks 9 songs as a deeply sexist film that allocates only inane dialogue to the woman and marginally intelligent, at times, dialogue to the man.
So really no surprises here in this department, it might only be the rare case that porn films seem to consciously form a positive message or provide a source of cultural nourishment. But if you are just a pleasure seeker and presumably male then this film may resonate. If you have chosen a life of hedonism over a life of the mind then this film may be background to your lifestyle. I must admit I feel all the worse for having watched this film, it is like eating some junk food and wondering why your stomach feels poorly. Certainly a warning never such a medium as a form of cultural sustenance. Director Michael Winterbottom seems to have found such a genre, that even pays off the best for him: the upscale eating and holiday flicks, “The Trip’ and “The Trip to Italy. It’s a long way from blowing the budget on for drugs for the crew.