Mitchell claims he did not set out with the aim of making an erotic film; rather, he wanted to see how sex could be revealing about other aspects of his characters' lives. It was created through improvisation and was a long time in gestation -- more than two years.
Sook-Yin Lee is Sofia, a sex therapist who herself is in search of the Big O, which Severin (Lindsay Beamish), a dominatrix, will help her find. James (Paul Dawson) is seeking to feel the love that his boyfriend Jamie (PJ DeBoy) feels for him, but it seems he is on a quest for his own self-gratification. These and other characters meet at Shortbus, a club where sex is part of the scene, and is run by the outrageously camp Justin Bond, a real-life entertainer.
Mitchell, despite appearances, is more interested in what makes his characters tick rather than their physical peccadilloes. Everyone tries so very enthusiastically to fulfill their obligations, especially the scene of auto-fellation at the start. It would be churlish not to find it all rather endearing in the same way that Hair earnestly wanted to be so shocking when it first appeared on the scene.
Judging by the array of similarly explicit fare on view in Cannes, cinema is about to unleash a wave of shock and awe at audiences. For the most part, let's hope it gets it all out of its system and regains composure before too long. You can have too much of a good thing, and sex on screen is no exception: less is more. Starring Sook-Yin Lee, Paul Dawson, Lindsay Beamish, PJ DeBoy, Raphael Barker and Jay Brannan. Directed and written by John Cameron Mitchell. Produced by Howard Gertier, Tim Perell and John Cameron Mitchell. A ThinkFilm release. Drama. Not rated. Running time 102 min.