Thursday, January 25, 2007

one of the films i've watched this past week is the notorious bettie page, a decent film that i expected to like more than i have given its subject. i've even written a poem about page and filmmaker irving klaw that concludes my soon-to-be released chap Super8. director mary harron strikes a delicate tone of non-judgment with page, irving and paula klaw, playboy magazine photographer bunny yeager, and the customers of pin-up and bondage films and photos. even the backdrop of congressional hearing on 'the smut racket' are treated gently. harron, in fact, tries too hard given that her film can neither be accused of glorifying pornography, or couching her message as one of free speech.

that might be one of the film's strengths. still, page photographed in bondage gear, or on the beach with wild cats, is a lyrical wonder. gretchen mol who plays bettie with such innocent delight looks a lot like the 1950s model. harron films page's story in black and white, but on the covers of the gentlemen's magazines of the time, and on the beaches of florida, the movie bursts into 1950s era technicolor. quite a technical achievement, yet it gives the movie just a whiff of nostalgia for those days when filming bush was illegal.

that seems silly nowadays. it seems almost everything is permitted. there are moments in the film when page is chastised for showing just a bit too much. we've come a long way, baby. or have we? tell me the last film you saw dick in a u.s. production, european films aside. movies today still seem to blush even when they show something as innocuous as a man's ass.

when it comes to plot, there really isn't much of one. the sumptuousness of the film itself, of mol as page, appears to be enough. but that only slights its grand subjects, page proper and porn imagery secondary. there are two scenes where harron glosses overthe sexual abuse of bettie. and the players, such as the klaws, their customers, and yeager are made to be sweet eccentrics.
a noble, but wasted effort. there are moments of pure delight, such as page posing nude for the 1st time, and the recreations of magazine covers. mol is excellent as page, a terrific actress. the photography is lush. yet the editing and the script drag. the dvd comes with a wonderful short loop of the great bettie page herself. if you wanna save yrself 90 minutes, watch that instead.


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