Polished Performances

Actor: Michael Fassbender
Character: Brandon
Film: Shame

Michael Fassbender has become a very prolific actor in recent years but his big break came in 2008 by playing Irish revolutionary, Bobby Sands, in Steve McQueen’s sobering political drama, Hunger. As he good as he was in that film, though, it was his work, again with McQueen, in 2011’s Shame that really cemented his reputation as one of the most daring of contemporary actors.

Fassbender plays Brandon, a successful, New York corporate executive who seemingly has everything he needs. He looks to be very financially secure and lives in a plush apartment. He’s a man that takes an obvious pride in his appearance but behind the sharp suits and comfortable lifestyle, there’s a emptiness. Brandon tries to fill the void in his life by sleeping with different women every night but his sexual appetite is not one of a bachelor enjoying his freedom but one struggling with the ability to connect on any personal or intimate level.

Fassbender was the first and only choice to play Brandon and his ferocious work is one of the most fearless and yet most vulnerable performances ever committed to the screen. Much has been said about the likes of Marlon Brando in the similarly themed Last Tango in Paris but even the legendary Brando doesn’t compare to Fassbender here.

Sometimes an actor will go that extra length to portray their character effectively but Fassbender literally leaves nothing to the imagination and exposes himself in every sense of the word. His intense and unflinching portrayal of a troubled and lonely soul is laid bare by his reliance on pornography, prostitutes and masturbation which only add to his deeper feelings of self-loathing and his inability to overcome his voracious appetite for sexual encounters. In one instance, while having sex with two women, we even witness a close-up shot of Brandon’s face while ejaculating. His expression doesn’t convey any feeling of pleasure, however, but one of despair. It’s an expression of one man’s descent into a personal hell.

Fassbender delivers a truly harrowing character study of an emotionally detached sex addict and, put simply, the film wouldn’t work without him fully embracing the role. That’s exactly what he does and he’s outstanding. It’s a captivatingly bold and extremely brave performance. Fassbender is on such commanding form that it’s no wonder he became an actor in very high demand after this.

Oscars? – “Shame” is the correct word to use in this instance. Shame on the Academy for failing to recognise one of the greatest ever screen performances. Fassbender was completely ignored come Oscar season. He didn’t even receive as much as a nomination despite the fact that he should have been the outright winner. He picked up numerous critics and festival awards for his work but the Oscars missed their chance to show their class here. Shame on them!.

(For more Polished Performances grope here)


26 Responses to “Polished Performances”

  1. For shame, indeed! I think Fassbender is in the elite group of working actors today–right up there with Gyllenhaal and Phoenix. Hmmm. Which of these three would you cast in a film of your own making?

    Liked by 2 people

    • Fassy has been consistently brilliant for a good few years now. The elite I would choose at present are, of course, him, Oscar Isaac and Tom Hardy. Phoenix is phenomenal and certainly one of the best but I’ve always seen him from a different generation of actors. It feels like he’s been around a lot more. That said, I’d probably honestly say that Fassbender is the best around just now. Not all of his film choices are great but he always elevates the films he’s in. I’d cast him above most any day.


      • Ha! Here’s some trivia for you. 😉
        Isaac 38 years old
        Hardy 40
        Phoenix 42
        Fassbender 40
        Gyllenhaal 36.
        It’s funny, because of ‘Donny Darko’, which came out so long ago, I thought Gyllenhaal must be the oldest of them all.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Ah! That’s interesting. I always assumed Phoenix and Gyllenhaal where older too. I suppose it’s probably because they were child actors; I remember Phoenix appearing in Parenthood when he went with the name “Leaf Phoenix”. Hardy, Isaac and Fassbender just seemed to arrive all at the same time a few years back. Included in this great list, though, I’d add Ryan Gosling. I’m always impressed with his range even though some just can’t take to him.


      • I love Gosling. If you’ve seen Blade Runner 2049, feel free to stop by and tell me what you thought about Gosling and the film. I would guess you liked it a lot.

        Liked by 1 person

      • He’s a great actor. I haven’t managed to catch up with Blade Runner yet. The original is one of my Top 5 all time favourite films so needless to say, I’m expecting good stuff. Going to get around to it very soon.


      • Oh, I hope you get to see it on the big screen. It’s a grand experience!! Come back whenever. I’m curious if you approve or not. 😉

        Liked by 1 person

      • Definitely a big screen deal. This has been a very nervous year for me. Trainspotting and Blade Runner are among my favourites and have been given sequels and one of my favourite TV series’ – Twin Peaks was revisited as well. So far, I’ve been quite impressed with the results. Trainspotting 2 complimented the first very well and Twin Peaks was an absolute treat – even if it left me with more questions than answers. Blade Runner is next and from I hear, it does the job just fine. Like I say, I was worried about all of these revisits to classics and (after I see Blade Runner 2049) this year could well be one of the most memorable in some time.


      • I remember reading your T2 review. I missed it in the theaters and then promptly forgot to rent it. Thanks for reminding me to watch it! I enjoyed the first one immensely.

        Liked by 1 person

      • T2 was a nice companion piece. Twin Peaks blew everything out the water but both were great and very respectful of their predecessors. Now I’m yet to approach Blade Runner. It’s 2 out of 3 so far and I’m expecting Blade Runner to hit a homer here!


  2. Great article. I remember watching this film in cinemas and it was just brilliant. Carey Mulligan also delivered an outstanding performance.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Solid post. Shame is probably the best work of his that I’ve seen. Such an underrated movie.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Courtney. Fassbender is marvellous in Hunger as well. I had to toss a coin between featuring his work in that or Shame but went for Shame because of the sheer bravery of the role. He really is quite something here. The boldest piece of acting I’ve seen for some time and an absolutely outstanding film. I’m a huge fan!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Oh this is such a worthy addition man. I couldn’t believe how raw and brave this role was. Good for Fassbender. I couldn’t take my eyes off him (even when I really REALLY fucking wanted to!!!)

    Liked by 1 person

  5. This is easily my favorite Fassbender performance. Like you said, he leaves nothing to the imagination whether that’s physical or emotional. He is brilliant, here. His work is also helped by the fact that he gets to work with an actress, Mulligan, giving what I think is also her career-best performance.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m in total agreement, man. I’m also a huge fan of Fassbender in Hunger but his work in Shame really is brave stuff. He’s delivered solid work ever since but he’s yet to surpass this work in my eyes. Mulligan ain’t no slouch either. Both great actors. Cheers Dell.


  6. What a hottie…. 😍

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Great analysis of one of my all-time favorite performances. Yes, it is a complete and utter shame that the Academy failed to nominated Fassbender for this.

    Liked by 1 person

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