Mary Harron

Mary Harron

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The Moth Diaries Review


Good

There's a terrific sense of menace in this gothic dramatic thriller, which plays on the story's fantasy elements to take us into a teen girl's troubled imagination. It's beautifully shot too, with blood-soaked echoes of Carrie and The Shining in the way the unsettling nastiness is underscored with emotion. Even so, the whole moth motif never really makes much sense, other than as a clumsy metaphor for adolescence.

The events take place in a creepy, isolated girls' school, where 16-year-old Rebecca (Bolger) creates a happy subculture with her best pal Lucy (Gadon) and their party-loving friends. They merrily subvert the rules, keeping the headmistress (Parfitt) on her toes. And the hot new literature teacher Mr Davies (Speedman) gets their pulses racing. Then a new student arrives: Ernessa (Cole) is a loner who reaches out to Lucy for friendship, which upsets Rebecca because she feels like Ernessa is actually preying on her friend. So she sets out to investigate Ernessa's mysterious past, and finds it difficult to tell the difference between reality and her wild imagination.

On the surface, this is a supernatural horror film with ghostly freak-outs, monster-movie grisliness and a rising body count. But is all of this happening in Rebecca's mind? Filmmaker Harron cleverly keeps us off-balance in this sense, letting us see Rebecca's harrowing nightmares and layering her suspicions with the lesbian vampire novel the girls are studying in Mr Davies' class. Stir in hints of teen girl issues like eating disorders, petty jealousies and inappropriate male advances.

Continue reading: The Moth Diaries Review

DIFF 'The Moth Diaries' screening

Sarah Bolger and Mary Harron - Jameson Dublin International Film Festival - 'The Moth Diaries' - Screening - Dublin, Ireland - Saturday 23rd February 2013

Sarah Bolger
Sarah Bolger
Sarah Bolger
Sarah Bolger
Sarah Bolger

This Film Is Not Yet Rated Review


Weak
When South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker made Orgazmo, a romp about a Mormon porn star, and submitted it to the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) for a rating, it came back NC-17. The filmmakers asked what they could do to get it down to an R, and they were told, brusquely, nothing. Years later they made Team America: World Police, which included a four-minute puppet-sex scene (including many shots they had no intention of using, just so they'd have something to cut out) that pushed them into forbidden territory. This time, however, they were provided scene-specific notes on how to make the film into an R. The difference? Orgazmo was an indie release, while Team America came from Paramount Studios. The message of this story, as relayed by Stone in the documentary This Film is Not Yet Rated, is fairly simple: The MPAA is less a responsible watchdog organization keeping the country safe from sexually explicit material than it is a corrupt industry tool, keeping the fig leaf of respectability not so firmly in place.

The MPAA was a lobbying organization that first implemented its voluntary ratings system in 1968 under the auspices of Jack Valenti, a Washington insider and LBJ confidant determined to defend Hollywood from the possibility of government regulation. Valenti argued it was better for film studios to police themselves so as to avoid having political prudes come down with a modernized Hays Code. So filmmakers must present their films to the MPAA's classifications panel (whose identities are never disclosed and are only described on the MPAA's website as "a board of parents") and then, if they don't have enough industry clout or the ability/desire to cut and resubmit their film for another pass, have to live with whatever rating is passed down. As This Film points out time and again, given that NC-17 films are shown by almost no theaters and often not carried by video rental chains, it's a system where de facto censorship is carried out by a secret nongovernmental body that seems to have a real problem with sex.

Continue reading: This Film Is Not Yet Rated Review

This Film Is Not Yet Rated Review


Weak
When South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker made Orgazmo, a romp about a Mormon porn star, and submitted it to the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) for a rating, it came back NC-17. The filmmakers asked what they could do to get it down to an R, and they were told, brusquely, nothing. Years later they made Team America: World Police, which included a four-minute puppet-sex scene (including many shots they had no intention of using, just so they'd have something to cut out) that pushed them into forbidden territory. This time, however, they were provided scene-specific notes on how to make the film into an R. The difference? Orgazmo was an indie release, while Team America came from Paramount Studios. The message of this story, as relayed by Stone in the documentary This Film is Not Yet Rated, is fairly simple: The MPAA is less a responsible watchdog organization keeping the country safe from sexually explicit material than it is a corrupt industry tool, keeping the fig leaf of respectability not so firmly in place.

The MPAA was a lobbying organization that first implemented its voluntary ratings system in 1968 under the auspices of Jack Valenti, a Washington insider and LBJ confidant determined to defend Hollywood from the possibility of government regulation. Valenti argued it was better for film studios to police themselves so as to avoid having political prudes come down with a modernized Hays Code. So filmmakers must present their films to the MPAA's classifications panel (whose identities are never disclosed and are only described on the MPAA's website as "a board of parents") and then, if they don't have enough industry clout or the ability/desire to cut and resubmit their film for another pass, have to live with whatever rating is passed down. As This Film points out time and again, given that NC-17 films are shown by almost no theaters and often not carried by video rental chains, it's a system where de facto censorship is carried out by a secret nongovernmental body that seems to have a real problem with sex.

Continue reading: This Film Is Not Yet Rated Review

The Notorious Bettie Page Review


Weak

Whether she knew it or not, Bettie Page was breaking a lot of taboos when she started posing in bondage films and photos (maybe she knew but just decided to not care?). Current trends in modeling, including Dita Von Teese and Suicide Girls, often cite Page as an inspiration for their work. In Von Teese there is a certain comparison, but Suicide Girls, whether they like it or not, are not celebrating taboo. If anything, they are destroying taboo and making everything normal, even the strange and macabre. The trick with Page was that she didn't really see it as a bad thing; she never had it in her mind to exploit the idea of "the bad girl." Whether this was on director Mary Harron's mind when she opted to take on the life story of Bettie Page is up for debate.

Raised in Tennessee to a strict, religious family and a father with a fondness for bathing suit areas, Bettie Page (Gretchen Mol) is set to become a teacher at college when she marries an army man and promptly leaves him when he hits her. After being sexually assaulted by a group of men, she makes her way to New York City to become an actress. The moment of fate comes when an off-duty police officer and amateur photog decides to take her picture. Soon enough, she's being sought out by famous photographers like Bunny Yeager (Sarah Paulson) and specialty photography siblings Irving and Paula Klaw (Chris Bauer and Lili Taylor, respectively). Her friends, mostly male, are astonished by her nonchalant attitude towards nudity and bondage. She just sees it as "silly pictures," but the Senate, led by Senator Estes Kefauver (David Strathairn, absolutely wasted), thinks it's warping the youth of America. Mostly, Bettie just wants to make a nice, God-fearing life for herself with a man who doesn't judge her.

Continue reading: The Notorious Bettie Page Review

I Shot Andy Warhol Review


Weak
Perverse (yet true!) biopic of Valerie Solanas (Taylor), a homeless lesbian prostitute feminist militant manhater New Yorker who gave Andy Warhol a copy of her play and then shot him when he wouldn't give it back.

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American Psycho Review


Good
From the opening scene, showing drops of blood on a pristine white surface, we know we're in for... well, not your ordinary slasher flick. Turns out the "blood" is a berry sauce being applied to a plate of haute cuisine. And the mind games of American Psycho have only just begun.

Steeped in controversy and mired in production for years, American Psycho tells the story of Anybroker Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale), a highest-society late 1980s Wall Street investment banker with a penchant for murder and a bloodlust that doesn't quit. Think of it as a portrait of Gordon Gecko as a young, homicidal man.

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Punk: Attitude Review


Excellent
At the start of Don Letts' excellent new documentary Punk: Attitude, ex-Black Flag-er and perennial curmudgeon Henry Rollins explains punk as being in essence one guy looking at the world he's living in and saying "Fuck this." A pithy summation of the movement, to be sure, and also quite a smart one, as this is one of the few films about the birth, death, and pseudo-revival of punk rock to actually acknowledge the genre's limitations (you can only say "Fuck this" while playing 90-second songs for so long), while simultaneously reveling in another trip down the antiestablishment memory road.

Most of the literature and documentaries on punk tend to start out in the same place, talking about how in the mid-1970s music had become this bloated, big-business monster, with pretentious arena rock bands playing 20-minute solos and so on - and then came The Ramones to shatter all that. Letts - a former producer and icon in the scene, as well as director of the authoritative documentary on The Clash, Westway to the World - digs deeper than that, going back to the 1960s and early '70s, finding the root of the coming musical uprising not just in expected places like The Velvet Underground, MC5, and Iggy Pop, but also in the jaggedly poppy sounds of many now mostly forgotten garage bands (whose sound is still inspiring post-punkers like The Hives). In describing the ascent of punk later in the '70s, Dead Kennedys frontman Jello Biafra talks about how just about every smaller town and city had one guy who was into The Stooges and The Velvet Underground who then moved to the bigger cities, met up with all the other like-minded small-town new arrivals, and started bands.

Continue reading: Punk: Attitude Review

Mary Harron

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