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9 Songs Reviews

Outside of porn and MTV, sex and rock and roll don't come much more explicit than Michael Winterbottom's daring film, an interesting, if not entirely successful attempt to trace the trajectory of a yearlong romance through sex scenes and documentary concert footage. The title says it all: In between 9 songs, played by several different bands at various London venues, a man and a woman meet, have sex, fall in love and face an uncertain future. Irish-born glacier specialist Matt (Kieran O'Brien) and Lisa (Margo Stilley), a footloose American, first lay eyes on each other at a Black Rebel Motorcycle Club concert at the Brixton Academy, and head home for a night of sex. Instead of a one-night stand however, Matt and Lisa begin seeing each other on a regular basis. They check out other bands, including Elbow, the Dandy Warhols, the Von Bondies and Franz Ferdinand; snort coke; go on holiday and, of course, have a lot of sex. Lisa, however, isn't ready to lay down roots yet, and by Christmas she considers returning to the U.S. Matt, meanwhile, has fallen in love with her. Unlike recent films such as THE LIFE OF JESUS (1997), POLA X (1999) and INTIMACY (2001) that feature glimpses of actual intercourse during the film, Winterbottom follows the more radical path blazed by ROMANCE (1999) and BAISE-MOI (2000), which devote nearly as much screen time to Matt and Lisa's sexcapades as any one of those story-driven porn movies of the '70s. But rather than the usual fetishizing camera work, Marcel Zyskind's cinematography is relatively discreet; the few close-ups we see are brief and artful. As Matt and Lisa go from being spectators at a concert hall to becoming the spectacle itself in Matt's bedroom, Winterbottom reminds us of our own role in the whole exchange; the fact that the actors are actually having sex before our eyes only heightens the voyeuristic experience. The result is a surprisingly successful deconstruction of a romance, although fans of the featured bands, as well as members of what used to be referred to euphemistically as the "raincoat crowd," will probably enjoy Winterbottom's experiment more than most.