9 Songs

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“9 Songs” is the story of two boring people who go to a lot of rock concerts and who, when they are not at rock concerts, have a lot of sex. The sex becomes kinkier as they progress; he is in love but she isn’t; when they aren’t in bed or at a concert, they have dull, ordinary conversations and snort cocaine.

No, silly, it’s not the George and Laura Bush story. (You goose, you!) It is British director Michael Winterbottom’s latest semi-improvised exercise in cinema-verite tedium. I was smitten with his “Wonderland” (another Sundance entry), finding its slowness appropriate for drawing out the characters’ personalities. His “24 Hour Party People” was a fine, witty piece of work indeed. But his other recent efforts — “The Claim,” “Code 46” — have been tiresome and chilly.

Now he has gone a step further. He has blended mundane, emotionally distant dialogue with straight-up pornography. The question that remains is WHY he has done this. If your characters have no depth and nothing to say, then why bother showing them doing anything OTHER than having sex? Why force their banal conversations upon us? For that matter, if you’re a serious filmmaker, why make a porno? Shoot it with stark natural lighting and fill it with hip indie rock songs, it’s still just a sex flick.

The characters are named Matt and Lisa, and they are played by Kieran O’Brien and Margo Stilley. Their affair is in the past; Matt is now flying over the Antarctic (he is a glaciologist, if there is such a profession), recalling his tryst with Lisa. They met at a concert and subsequently attended shows by artists such as the Dandy Warhols, the Von Bondies, and Franz Ferdinand (entire songs by each of these groups are shown, rockumentary-style). Oh, and they had sex.

I cannot overstate this: The movie has no plot. Nothing interesting occurs in it at any point, except possibly in the case of some of the rock performances. Matt and Lisa’s interaction outside of bed is common and unintriguing, and their interaction in bed is as wildly explicit and emotionally detached as any of the “adults-only” tapes you find in the back room of the video store. The film’s only conceivable purpose is to titillate, and it only barely does that.

D (1 hr., 9; Not Rated, probably NC-17 for abundant graphic sex and nudity.)