9 Songs

Director: Michael Winterbottom
Screenwriters: Michael Winterbottom

Institute History

  • 2005 Sundance Film Festival


When Matt and Lisa, the lovers in Michael Winterbottom's audacious, poetic 9 Songs, first meet at a Brixton Academy concert, we aren't privy to their initial conversation; it's drowned out by swells of music. Nor are we privy to who they are or why they get along. What we are privy to is their sexuality, and not as a passing interest. This chronicle of a fleeting, tender love affair is about sexual behavior and intimacy. Sex doesn't serve a larger story here. Sex is the story.

Dispensing with the conventional dramatic building blocks, Winterbottom's approach is experiential. Alternating among musical performances, sexual encounters (which have their own arc), and intentionally austere scenes of everyday interaction (making tea, a trip to the seashore), he reconceives how cinema can express the contours of a relationship. Beneath it all is an elegant, heartfelt rebellion against a core dishonesty of cinema. Winterbottom is flouting cinematic prudishness, objectification, reductive sex, and other false intermediaries. In their place: real sex. And what some call "explicit" (and it is, very) may just as well be called "honest."

Full of artistry and sweetness, and framed as Matt's reflection during a flight over the desolate Antarctic landscape (he is a glaciologist), 9 Songs is something of a song itself, and one you most certainly have never heard before.

— John Nein

Screening Details


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