Katie Mccullough Talks and Writes

Words will get written here and some videoblogs will appear. You don't have to look but it would be nice if you did.

“Only unhappy people are bad dancers…” June 29, 2010

I had a craving to re-watch “9 Songs” and I followed through with it. It’s a love/hate film with me obviously being a part of the former. For me it sums up the decaying relationship, the heartache, the pain and the tedium with all the good bits inbetween of how love manifests itself. Or lust. A heady combination of the two. And let’s be honest here, sex is part of love.



(Personally I think this trailer is a bit of a hash job, the audio is horribly clipped and heavily cut in places, but you get the idea.)

My other passion is music and, after spending an eternity on my dissertation which was about the use of music as a form of narrative in the moving image, I only wish this had come out earlier. For me it encapsulates the passion and rhythm of sex and music and merges the two. Visceral, raw and honest and painfully frank the fact that they’re having real sex in front of you on a screen is not the point. The point is that you’re parry to their intimacy and it’s not porn it’s a love story. If you get off whilst watching this film you’re wanking to someone’s misery. But hey, whatever floats your boat.


There is something that film cannot capture or recreate when it comes to simulating sex on screen. And it’s this (and I too shall be brutally frank). It’s the first groan a woman makes as a man enters her. This noise that erupts slowly from the back of her throat, the signal of things to come. It completely takes over the body and ripples through her limbs, her body parting the way and embracing her lover. Physically and emotionally we’re reduced to sounds, touch – it’s a sensory overload when it comes to making love/fucking/whatever you wish to call it. No amount of fakery can match that. A sound that is heightened by the silence that follows it. A sound that I can imagine makes a man’s cock twitch with delight and drench him with a euphoria so much so that his ears swallow themselves. It’s a sign of pleasure and in that single aural sensation we as the singer of such a note or the inducer can derive the craziest, wildest awareness of our position in a clinch.


Which is why “9 Songs” for me is a rare honest portrayal of a relationship and its impact emotionally and physically. Told through the eyes of the male it contrasts the ice landscape of the Antarctic of his profession with that of the scolding furious passion of his home-life. The undulating growth of this relationship over a year is punctuated with the live music they go and see and really hones in to the hedonistic lifestyle the couple indulge in. Told in a vignette style we see the fragmented memories of what’s left to remember of this year long relationship. Intense and unsettling at times we see the pair set out on a path of discovery and push boundaries sexually and the mundane small moments that once we’re in a relationship we can crave and cling to, but to the outsider are meaningless.


“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”.


For me the repetition of small private jokes really are a measure of where the relationship is or is not going (“You look ugly” “I’m trying to look ugly”). They delved into this in “500 Days Of Summer” (the tap sequence in IKEA). And I think it’s an all too familiar wound that I recall from my own experiences – where you know in that isolated incident if a joke lovingly formulated between two lovers, who are the only two people to understand, falls flat or fails to lift you feel shunned and instantly out of place.


I think the reason why I appreciate and hold a special place for “9 Songs” is because it strikes too familiar with me in all of its painful glory. That’s not to say my last relationship panned out the same or we had the same problems, but it’s the solemn promise that we offer to another human being that more than often goes tits up. Which is why I always defend this film when it crops up in conversation. The sex is much apart of the narrative as the flitters of dialogue between the couple and the live music. The gradual decline of their relationship is mirrored in their sex life and the intensity of the music reflects their differences.


Personally I think the biggest lie you could tell is that of a relationship. Sombre as that sounds it takes a lot to offer yourself up to someone as you are and for someone to accept it as a given. I think this is why I end up writing a lot about relationships and the effects of them. I had a big ol’ conversation today about how insulting it can be for people to assume that all writers projects are direct formulations of their experiences. Don’t get me wrong I do put a lot of myself into my writing but they’re moments, sayings, trivial meanings, observations – they are not my life stories out for all to see and digest. And even if they were I would never highlight that fact unless I wanted to. The point is writers have an imagination and they have the creative ability to flex it. After writing “The White Room” I had people coming up to me saying I had nailed the complexities of a strained marriage and motherhood as well as post-natal depression. This pleased me so because:


a) I am not married and have never been.
b) I am not a mother so subsequently…
c) I have not experienced post-natal depression.


It goes to show the ultimate ability of a writer is to create lives that people can relate to. I have a perfectly wonderful supportive family, but there’s nothing I like better than writing a family that is the complete opposite. Because it’s a challenge and they exist. I take pride in the fact that I can still hark back to what a relationship is like even though it’s been a while since I’ve had one. I realise I’ve been quite open about a lot of stuff in this post but hey, it all happens and trust me I’m honest which is how I am. Which means I should maybe tie this back to why I like, no love, “9 Songs”… It’s because it forces me to look back to memories I have myself which have formed who I am today. Not 100% depressing I can assure you.


Maybe I should have watched Mamma Mia*.









(*I will never watch Mamma Mia.)


10 Responses to ““Only unhappy people are bad dancers…””

  1. Hey Katie:

    As a fellow writer, I very much enjoyed your description of a man entering a woman on the first stroke. You are generalizing from your experience. ( a common mistake). Not all women groan when they are entered the first time. I can say this from experience.

    Many women are very inhibited in their sexuality and are not subject to vocal histrionics (much to the chagrin of their lovers). Never the less I enjoyed reading your account.

    Blessings on you and yours
    John Wilder

    • Hallo John,

      Thanks for stopping by the blog. Each to their own I suppose but women cannot help but make noise when they feel pleasure. I am of course not generalising that women shriek and sing the hallejujah chorus but believe me there is sound whether it be a moan or a hum. No one has sex silently. Other wise the whole experience does not make for a pleasant one…?

      Many thanks,


  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Katie McCullough, Katie McCullough. Katie McCullough said: A double whammy of blogness tonight : "Only unhappy people are bad dancers…" http://bit.ly/dfmKe3 […]

  3. Stephen Marsh Says:

    An outstanding post, Katie. I only saw ‘9 Songs’ the once, but I think you’re right – it totally encapsulates that downward spiral of a relationship. The only other two films i’d namecheck for that (albeit tonally very different to 9 Songs!) are 500 Days of Summer (as you said) and Annie Hall.

    I write, most often, about romantic relationships. For me, maybe its just what life is like in your twenties, but that’s how I filter the world, somehow. I think about events – personal, political, whatever – in terms of relationships. As a random example, I wrote a film, once, about a guy who got this random but ultimately useless superpower. He saves his own life, once, using the power, and becomes obsessed with the notion that he is ‘special’, at the cost of his friends and more importantly his fiance. Of course, he has to learn that he is special, even at his most ordinary, to those people around him.

    I think its to do with being primal, which is the biggest generalisation we do as writers. We take a story and somehow make it about sex, violence, death, survival – we explode tiny ideas into the arenas of these massive themes and that’s when audiences connect.

    Wow, I’ve rambled. I only really commented to say this – I admire your honesty, your clarity, and envy people that can be that open as themselves. I think if I did that i’d have nothing left for characters to say!

    • Thanks for reading Stephen. Whilst I wasn’t entirely bowled over by “500 Days Of Summer” there were moments where I genuinely felt the crush of the character and thought they caught perfect slithers of all the emotion that would be swimming around one’s head. I have to be an utter numpty and admit I’ve not seen “Annie Hall”… (that goes along with the revelation earlier today that I’ve not seen “Casablanca” or “The Third Man”).

      I think we write what we have some grasp on, our own take and then run with it in other directions and see what manifests. Definitely it’s about being primal, sex is a ghastly act if taken out of context which I think is why it can offend people because they feel it to be a private act that shouldn’t be shown on a large screen. It’s a tricky one to discuss and keep everyone happy but personally I thought the fact that this film got so much coverage *because* of the graphic nature is good. It gets people talking.

      (On a side point I saw this for the first time in the Prince Charles cinema and I was by myself. I was also surrounded by singular business men clutching their briefcases very dear – it’s an emotional piece of porn to wank to if that’s what they expecting… I think not.)

      Now I’ve rambled too, but once again thanks for reading. Always nice to hear your voice. It’s only recently that I feel I can be open because of several things but most importantly it’s because people are listening. There’s nothing to envy, only something to aspire to.

  4. well I quite agree but I am speaking from personal experience. I generally have gotten the woman off a couple of times before I enter her so it is not due to ignorance on my part. I assure you it is a downer for a guy for a woman to be deadly silent. I did not go back for seconds with these women. But sadly it happens.

    Blessings on you and yours
    John Wilder

  5. Elinor Perry-Smith Says:

    Hi Katie, a very moving and well written post if I may say. I haven’t seen 9 songs but it’s refreshing to think about the purpose of sex in film in a new way.

    El. X

  6. Life_Reboot Says:

    Hey Katie,
    I really enjoyed your post, it was revealing and poignant on a number of levels. I haven’t seen 9 songs, but I will make the effort to now, it always helps to have someone to guide and to help you pick up the nuances in a film and to cast a different light on them.

    Think I’ll go read some other bits of your writing.

    • Hallo Nigel,

      Thanks for reading. It’s true what you say about having someone else highlight the qualities of something to avoid it being glossed over. This film got a lot of press because of the real sex in it but it’s there for a very good reason. Obviously it’s not a family film but it’s still a film I think that will touch people in different ways.

      Feel free to wander around the blog, mostly it’s me rambling!


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