Sook-Yin Lee

Punk singer. MuchMusic VJ. Host of CBC’s Definitely Not the Opera. Centre of a scandal when you had sex on screen for the film Shortbus. And now, your feature-film writing and directing debut with Year of the Carnivore (opening June 18). Why all the genre jumping?
Well, I have cohesion in my own mind, but it manifests in all kinds of forms. I was lecturing at Ryerson’s journalism school the other day and someone asked how I could do so much and “stay true to my brand.” I was like, “Oh my God! This is exactly what I rail against.”

In Shortbus and in Year of the Carnivore, young women desperately try to get better at sex in order to feel a human connection. You’ve got some demons to work out?
It all goes back to my Vancouver days, yeah. I didn’t know how to be intimate, and I was wondering why intimacy sometimes feels so un-intimate. In the home where I grew up, in North Vancouver, there was a lot of violence and craziness, so I moved downtown on my own when I was 15. I’d hide behind mailboxes whenever I saw my mom come down the street.

You left for Toronto in your early 20s. Did you have to go that far?
Please apologize to Vancouver for me. I still love it. Vancouver is the seminal influence on my world-view. But I don’t know if the Vancouver I grew up with even exists anymore. And, you know, I’ve always been a nomad.

Will you ever be home?
I’d like to tell you I feel at home in myself, but that would be lying. Home doesn’t really exist. I have this childhood memory of having a sense of place, looking out the backseat window of our car at this Utopian, grassy area with a tree, but that tree was cut down and paved over, literally. I never even feel I’m inside a group. When I was in the punk scene, it could be as oppressive as the unspoken laws of high school. Even in supposedly creative environments there are forces telling you what to do.

How does your creative exploration of sex fit into your search for home?
Well, stories about love and sex are about the essentials, about what it means to find a place and to be connected with others. I’m attracted to that.

You’ve made lots of connections in Vancouver and, in recent years, Toronto, so maybe you can finally settle this: which city is better in bed?
It’s all equally awkward. I think Vancouver’s more of a swinger town, whereas I’m the opposite of freewheeling. And in Toronto people are more uptight, there’s more grooming, more anxiety about their bodies.

You’re older than the clumsy hero of your movie. Does sex get better?
Yes, actually, it seems to be getting better as I evolve.VM