Traditionally, objectors to this sort of thing airily claim that it is "boring". Others, conversely, might affect to see in the sex infinitesimally subtle narrative stages, and also an intentional commentary on the action in the lyrics of each of the nine songs by Franz Ferdinand, Primal Scream, the Dandy Warhols etc. But I thought it was absorbing precisely because of the absence of artfully positioned ironies and narrative touches: it's just about going out for a good time, and then staying in for an even better time. The sex is absolutely fantastic for Lisa and Matt and then, well, it's not so fantastic any more. As to whether or not it is pornographic, the stakes are not quite so high with that question these days: it is pornographic in the sense that the sex act is shown on screen, complete with money shot.This is the acceptable unshockable-sophisticate alternative to condemnation on moral grounds. Is that why all those male journalists in the audience were gulping and surreptitiously recrossing their legs? But it does not have the self-conscious porn sheen that arthouse directors like Lukas Moodysson and Tsai Ming-Liang are investigating: it doesn't have the porn tropes of transgression and exhibitionism.It's a landscape that reflects both his devastation at the end of the relationship and his passionate memory of Lisa's body, not so much a new-found-land like Donne's America, but an icy enigma, a sexy-scary blank. Poor, muddled Matt is quite unable to talk about his feelings for her, and the nearest he gets is sweetly running into the freezing cold sea on a pebbly British beach to prove his love.They meet at a Black Rebel Motorcycle Club concert at the Brixton Academy in London and go back to his place for sex, setting a pattern of lovemaking and going out to gigs that repeats nine times through the film: guitar band, sex, guitar band, sex, guitar band, sex, and so on. Their conversation has the uncertain, improvised aimlessness of real life, and their relationship is not developed and complicated in any traditionally scripted sense. So this is no great love affair; there are no big scenes of tears and laughter; breaking up and making up. Its very casualness, its unfinishedness and downbeat messiness give the affair the feeling of real life, which by a further paradox makes it more engaging than something more obviously dramatic.
My response is like Gandhi's apocryphal reply to the same question about western civilisation: "That sounds like an interesting plan." We behave as if sex is everywhere in popular culture, but despite the ketchupy smothering of everything with a supposed sexiness, despite the speed dating, porn chic, reality TV bedrooms, desperate housewives etc etc, actual representations of ordinary, common-or-garden sex are still very uncommon.
9 Songs will undoubtedly have a chorus of pundits ostentatiously stifling their yawns in print. The people are too ordinary and the sex is too straightforward.9 Songs is more like a very modest version of Richard Linklater's Before Sunrise with Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, only instead of penetrating conversation there's penetrative sex.