Monday, August 2, 2010

Do Yourself A Favor

Despite the fact that I originally reviewed them (glowingly!) almost eighteen months ago, Mesrine - Public Enemy Number One, and Killer Instinct, are finally opening in the States. They comprise an exquisite duet in a genre the French are excelling at lately (A Prophet was another winner). I urge anybody who appreciates solid cinema to support these movies with your dollars.

I often ponder what would happen to Quentin Tarantino's career if he featured as much sex in his movies as violence? I'd say the critics and audiences would turn on him. They've sure turned on the makers of the next little gem.

The sequel to The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played With Fire, has been lambasted by most U.S. critics for reasons I'll get to shortly. It's smaller scale entry, sure, and it's not quite as glossy as its parent, but for fuckin fuck's sake, see this film! It's suspenseful, brutal, unrelenting, and downright deviant bullet train of moviemaking. On top of these honors, it boasts an incredible and unique villain.

If the series continues to head in this direction, the third and final installment will be a subversive masterpiece.

I'd say the high level of sexual content (consenting and non-consenting) is behind the majority of poor reviews the film is getting in the U.S. Let's face it, considerable portions of the U.S. are puritan to the core, and sex is considered more obscene than a human being having their head chopped off. When was the last time a non-porno film was charged with obscenity, eh? Gross discomfort with the sexual nature of the human animal sways the most intelligent critics (with some exceptions, and you know who you are!) in the U.S. Very few seem capable of shedding their puritanism so that they can fairly and objectively review films with high level sexual content. For some reason, all that flesh and sweat tends to overwhelm them.

A classic example of puritan backlash (or is that whiplash?) was Giussepe Tornatore's exquisite The Unknown Woman, one of my favorite and most beautiful/brutal noirs of the last five years.

Ignore the puritans, listen to the audiences, and make a date with The Girl Who Played Played With Fire.

Also well worth catching this week is the excellent Hugh Hefner doco, Hugh Hefner - Playboy, Activist and Rebel. It's a pretty exhaustive look at the man and, primarily, his brave, lifelong campaign to fight official and unofficial racism in America. The Hugh many of us thought we knew is but one part of a fascinating gentleman and modest activist. Even an American hero.


  1. You raise a very important point, why does portrayal of sex on the screen suddenly upset some many people. Everybody at one point does engage in some sort of sexual activity but audiences find watching violence more acceptable. This appears to be evident in cultures like the USA, Australia and the UK with more liberal views in Europe. Even nudity upsets the Censors in Australia with the recent decision to ban LA Zombie at MIFF. It was the violence, it's was the mere depiction of a male penis and sex that got this one banned. Not the scenes of flesh eaters ripping apart their victims. Figure that!

  2. Thank you for this. I couldn't agree more and it helps to read your thoughts on The Girl Who Played With Fire. Looking forward to checking out Mesrine. Cheers.

  3. The lies and hypocrisy of Hollywood and the media in general is yet another reason why the 20th century will always be remembered by future historians as being "THE TIME OF SEXUAL REPRESSION".

  4. Have you read the Steig Larsson novels?

  5. *Pictures a man with a Pilgrim hat on and a scowl on his face writing a bad review for THE GIRL THAT PLAYED WITH FIRE with a quill pen.*

    It's especially hypocritical here in America, but we're not so bad compared to others, even the Japanese still fog the genitals in their misogynistic porn. Your country, Austalia, is probably the worst censorship-wise in the West, the America we're more libertarian about things. Republicans and Christians complain a lot but very seldom does anything get banned and daring stuff isn't made more because of uncertain financial outcome than much moral objection.

    Yes, Quentin Tarantino would quickly alienate himself if he put lots of sex in his movies. His films, save for JACKIE BROWN and the anime scene in KILL BILL, are shockingly sexless, actually and it's always sort of been odd to me. I think he knows better (or worse).

    In the same spirit and like THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE, BODY DOUBLE, though probably one of DePalma's masterpieces in my eyes and regarded as one of his better films by most in the decades since, got flambeed and hurt his career considerably for its sexuality, not for its violence and that was just the watered down R-rated film he ended up having to make, he wanted to make an X-rated film with actual pornstars and footage of hardcore penetration initially but the studio heads flipped.

    Being embarrassed about/uncomfortable with our sexuality is human nature, but an aspect of human nature that is honestly bizarre and illogical and we should try to get past.

  6. Looking forward to The Girl Who Played With Fire. Tried reading the book and finally threw it across the room halfway -- a truly tedious read. The first book (according to my wife who urged me to read the second) was a real barn-burner -- should have read that instead. In any case, Noomi Rapace is awesome and I'm sure I'll enjoy her Ms. Salander as much as I did the first time 'round (probably more this time out ... !).

  7. As soon as I can find an angle, I'd love to review both Mesrine films as they had an astonishing effect on me. The scene in Public Enemy No. 1 with the cave and the journalist, biting my fucking nails. Vincent Cassel at his most primal, debased form. Sides for Sheitan of course.


  8. Some very interesting thoughts on "Girl..." but unfortunately, I have to disagree with the sense that it's puritanism that has vexed the critics - having seen and reviewed it myself (here, if you're interested), and I'll speak only for myself when I say that my negative opinion of the movie was based on the poor plotting, the Bond-style villain, and frequent idiot plot elements. I thought The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo was an interesting, occasionally cool airport-thriller-with-flesh-and-blood-people but by the last act I found myself tapping my feet, struggling to stay in the theater.

    Having said that, really digging the blog and looking forward to reading more of your work.

  9. Charles -- already corresponded with you on this; thanks for coming by.

    Soiled & Anonynous -- that scene in the cave is so powerful and original.

    Patrick -- I haven't read the books at all. Yes, Rapace is terrific.

    MA Smith -- excellent points. Sex is still a very uncomfortable subject for many people and remains so throughout their lives. I'm not sure what "sexual maturity" actually is.