It ALL started with an extreme close-up of a computer-generated drawing of the Statue of Liberty…too close you'll see
the cemented lines as the camera zoomed down, fast enough toward the New York coastline in a matter of seconds.
Flying across the city the camera travels above a colorful array of rooftops, penthouses, dark and well-lighted windows. The flow will allow you to see a panoramic view of the cityscape interspersed throughout the first few seconds of the Main Titles. As the camera zoomed through a window and the next, you see characters, in independent sexual acts involving self-fellatio (if there is such thing), S&M, and an extreme exhibition of coppulation between two characters in a remotely serene bedroom.
The first few scenes of John Cameron Mitchell's Shortbus deliberately details the initial establishment of a character-driven plot and an exploitation of liberty in a city overlooked by a statue that signifies it all. It explores the adventures of sexuality and gender in a society driven by passion, philosophy, independence and orgasms. It details a frank exhibition of sex in post-9-11 New York among sexual explorers with goals that are a bit too naughty for the conservative mind. It clearly depicts a new exploration of self-thought, experimentation and liberation in search for oneself.
Sofia (Sook-Yin Lee) is married to the attractive, self-centered, yet dumb-witted Rob (Raphael Barker) who looks at his
manhood as a tool to inavertly supress the former's ecstatic satisfaction in sex. Suprisingly, Sofia is pre-orgasmic, and hasn't reached actual orgasm since her first try.
She eventually comes into contact with two gay couples; James (Paul Dawson) and Jaime (PJ DeBoy) who themselves have been having issues in their relationship as the latter finds it hard to accept the love given by the former while the former has found the need to express his overflowing love for everybody.
Enter other supporting characters that will bring spice to this character-driven story: First we are brought to the Shortbus: a Brooklyn "salon for the gifted and challenged." Here get to enter a world of utmost liberty where sex is a common escape from a world dictated by rules and cynicism. Next we see Ceth (Jay Brannan), a former commercial model turned songwriter who met the Jaimes in Shortbus. We also
get to know Severin (Lindsay Beamish), a self-proclaimed lesbian masochist who created a special bond with Sophie as she explores her sexuality to achieve her ultimate sexual goal. Also, we see Caleb (Peter Stickles) a voyeuristic photographer obssessed with the Jaimes (James and Jaime) who made it a habit to view the couple from their windows through a telescope. We also get introduced to Justin Bond (as himself) the visible alter-ego for our characters and host for the Shortbus guests who shows great traditional cycnicm againsts society and standards, saying: "As my dear departed friend Lotus Weinstock used to say:I used to want to change the world. Now I just wanna leave the room with a little dignity."
Through these characterizations, we see the wheels of the plot revolve through the next hour or so. We get to explore the senses of becoming a female in search for herself and finding an extremely suprising realization. Sophia's journey from being a preserved Couple's Counselor (since she doesn't want to be called a Sex Therapist) to a sexual adventurer exploited new arguements on physical gratifications. The new world, as introduced to her in the Shortbus, created a new perspective on sexual adventure, odessey and exploration of preference. Her absolute negation throughout the entire film againsts the idea of lesbianism served as a key to finally open the door for her lifelong questions and search for meaning. This pre-orgasmic New Yorker learned, through a clear manifestation of lust in room full of people dressed to the nines and others dressed extremely down and making out.
The Jaimes on the other hand, presented a twisted, yet universal picture of a gay-relationship gone bland. James has started seeing that his relationship with Jaime is going nowhere since he started feeling that Jaime's overflowing love
has never penetrated his "skin." Jaime on the other hand, has been finding ways on how to make the relationship work, to the point of managing to include a new party, Ceth, into the relationship making a ménage à trois that explores various sexual experimentations.
When James reached the height of his journey to freedom from Jaime, he came across Caleb and ended up looking from the latter's window to their own apartment across the street. This almost fantastical climax paved a new perspective for James in his search for himself as he aimed to finally recieve Jaime's love for him. He viewed the spot, not from his own eyes, but from the eyes of an obsessed photographer who believed in their love for each other, a love that surpasses his limited understanding like a lone role player who would not fully see his own ground. Amidst the dark climatic scene, we see supernatural James looking across the windows, lighted not by flourecent nor incandecent lights, but by plain candlelights sybolically expressing the warmth of first love and the flame of a long forgotten love.
Clearly, this movie could be argued as pornographic. But the Cannes Film Festival did not say so. The depiction of sex in the film was not erotic nor suggestive, as it simply exhibits plain sex among people: Americans or not. The exploration of sexual gratifications is but common among people who see that sex is a part of the physical, psychological and spiritual realm of our being. Our orgasms are not taboos, but an everyday concern especially for those who never had it and that satisfaction cuts across gender, identity and preference. Our freedom to explore our needs, our desires is continuous journey to self-realization. Without motivation to pursue this natural gratification, we will begin to lose our hopes and begin our walk towards decay.