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McQueen explores compulsions in ‘Shame’

Fassbender stars in Brit helmer's second pic

British helmer Steve McQueen arrives on the Lido with his second film, “Shame,” after an impressive start three years ago.

The visual artist-turned-helmer picked up Venice’s Gucci Group Award for crossover filmmakers for his debut feature, “Hunger,” which also scooped Cannes’ Camera d’Or.

He’s reunited with “Hunger” star Michael Fassbender, who in “Shame” plays a man living in New York City, who has trouble controlling and managing his sexual compulsions.

McQueen says the film is about “need, hurt and desire whereby the main character, Brandon, uses sexual activity to numb the hurt inside of him.”

Pic screens in competition today and then goes to Toronto. It has some intriguing names: Carey Mulligan plays the wayward sister of Fassbender’s character while scribe Abi Morgan (“The Iron Lady”) co-wrote the script with McQueen. “The King’s Speech’s” Iain Canning and Emile Sherman produce.

McQueen’s second feature doesn’t yet have a U.S. distrib, but has been widely anticipated.

The helmer says his approach to making it wasn’t that different from “Hunger.”

“I want every film to be my first film and I think it’s very important to think like that,” he said. “As a director, you’ve just constantly got to think of what is possible.”

The main difference between the films is the locations, he said.

“What was interesting for me is that ‘Hunger’ was set in a prison in Northern Ireland, a very definite sort of place, whereas ‘Shame’ is set in New York City, a very contemporary and temporary place state. ‘Hunger’ was limited to freedom where as ‘Shame’ was less so.”

Reuniting with Fassbender was, McQueen said, rewarding. “I think we can trust each other. It’s a bit like falling in love — when you have it you recognize it and that’s it. I’m extraordinarily fortunate. I think he’s the best actor out there.”

Collaborating with Morgan was inspiring, he said.

“The research I did with Abi was amazing. We spoke to specialists in New York and we talked to people who deal with bad situations when there’s a certain kind of heightened sexual activity.”

And while the subject matter is a racy one, no doubt why U.S. buyers have waited to screen the finished pic, McQueen said Venice is the perfect fit for the preem.

“I think when you arrive in Venice as a city, you forget about things — maybe because of the water,” he said. “You arrive with your senses fully intact. The taste of food, the sound of water, every sense you have is awakened. It’s a wonderful place for cinema because of that. ‘Shame’ will be seen in a place where people will reflect that.”

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