“When I remember Lisa I don’t think about her clothes, or her work, or where she was from, or even what she said. I think about her smell, her taste, her skin touching mine.”
Matt (Keiren O’Brien) meets Lisa (Margo Stilley) at a gig at the Brixton Academy in London. The Black Rebel Motorcycle Club is playing. Later they have sex at his pad. She’s on top.
“She was twenty one, beautiful, egotistical, careless and crazy.”
Next they see The Von Bondies live, and later Matt performs oral sex Lisa, then whilst she sits on a desk he stands and fucks her. “Faster”, she whispers. Afterward she makes coffee, and smiles at him.
“Only unhappy people are bad dancers.”
They snort coke, listen to house music, and compare dancing styles. Missionary position. The next morning Matt asks Lisa if they’ll ever have sex without a condom. She prefers contraception.
Elbow live, then it’s off to the countryside. They lounge in the warm bath. He skinny-dips in the freezing ocean.
Primal Scream live performing Movin’ On Up. It’s song #4. Their affair moves a little more kinky, he ties her up and blindfolds her, performs cunnilingus, she demands him to fuck her.
You Were High Last Night, The Dandy Warhols. A strip club called Venus. Lisa takes great interest in the lap dancer. Matt leaves the club feeling rejected. Lisa masturbates alone, fantasising. Together in bed, she cries. He cooks breakfast, and then watches her rub one out in bed, blissfully unaware. He comes to a disheartening realisation.
“Lisa didn’t want to go to the gig that night, so I gave her ticket away. Five thousand people in a room and you can still feel alone.”
“There was only a week before her flight home. She was like a tourist on holiday in London. She bought souvenirs and Christmas presents. She was happy to be leaving.”
Matt and Lisa complete their brief relationship in a hotel room, once again she’s on top, where she’s always been. The exchange student leaves to fly back to America. No long goodbyes. The climatologist begins a new job in Antarctica.
“Exploring the Antarctic is like exploring space. You enter a void, thousands of miles, with no people, no animals, no plants. You’re isolated in a vast, empty continent. Claustrophobia and agoraphobia in the same place, like two people in a bed.”
Michael Winterbottom – a rare breed of director whose every movie is almost completely different from the last – was frustrated with fake sex on screen, and so he experimented with actual sex and essentially no script. The result is a sensual, explicit curiosity.
The concert performances are largely forgettable, and, despite the sex scenes being genuine, and for the most part feeling authentic in the on-screen chemistry between the two non-adult movie industry actors (a brave move on their part!), the most interesting moments in 9 Songs are the one or two scenes depicting the relationship falling apart, most notably the visit to the strip club and afterward. Margo Stilley’s charisma is the movie’s best asset. A better title would’ve been, simply, Lisa (especially since Matt narrates), or maybe 12 Months.
9 Songs is available from Accent Film Entertainment. Review by Bryn Tilly of www.cultprojections.com