Tuesday, April 25, 2006

The Notorious Bettie Page

Over the week-end I got to see the film "The Notorious Bettie Page" directed by Mary Harron. After the show Ms Harron & her cinematographer Mott Hupfel were introduced to the audience and we were allowed to field questions to both. If the name Mary Harron is unfamiliar to you she also directed the films "I Shot Andy Warhol" & "American Psycho". The Notorious Bettie Page is about the pin-up model from the fifties who eventually graced the pages of Playboy in 1955. Grechen Moll stars as the title character Bettie Page, and from the first frame of the film you actually believe that Ms Moll is Bettie Page. Ms Moll does a fine performance of the 50's icon, and is convincing in every aspect. Two other performance should also be singled out here to and they are Lili Taylor's & Chris Bauer's performance of Paula & Irving Klaw. Both performers do an excellent job at fleshing out the parts of the exploitive team that introduced Bettie Page to the public, and who were later plagued by the government for distributing so-called "pornographic material" through the mail.

Ms Harron's film is more about the 50's then it is about Bettie Page. The film wets ones appetite for an honest bio documentary to be done about Ms Page's life hopefully someday, but the film only superficially deals with Ms Page's dilemmas, and feelings toward her work. The current Ms Page is still around and it is noted that Ms Page did not work with the filmmakers in getting the film produced, but it is said that she approves of the film. Hopefully some day in the if there is further interest in Ms Page's exploits there will be a more definitive film made that will tell us more about this extrodinary women. Till then Ms Harron's film will probably be the most definitive.

"The Notorious Bettie Page" is an interesting look back at the 50's and what was deemed "pornographic" in a very conservative era. Ms Harron's film melds B&W footage with color, and uses it to convey a mood. Though there is some stock footage used in the film the film interweaves both color and B&W well. Though according to the filmmakers the B&W footage that they shot never satisfied them 100%, so one can only hope that on the DVD version that they'll give the filmmakers their due and color correct it to Mr Hupfel's specifications. The film is an enjoyable romp through the 50's and contains a lot of the music from that era.

All in all the film "The Notorious Bettie Page" is a film that gives us a glimpse into a very conservative era, and one where governmental forces interfered for the sake of "national decency".

As one reviewer says about the film "with a fearless lead performance by Gretchen Mol and stunning atmospheric cinematography of W.Mott Hupfel III, Ms Harron accomplishes her goal admirably, holding up a mirror to the past while making the audience examine their own "enlightened" 21st Century attitudes towards so-called pornography. As America suffocates under a new conservatism, this is a film needed more than ever."* I could not agree more whole heartedly. Go see it. You won't regret it.

*taken from "The Truth About Sex in America".

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