Published May 01, 2006Making a movie about pin-up pioneer Bettie Page has one serious stumbling block: Page has been largely incommunicado since finding God and renouncing her posing ways.
This makes definite statements on her motives and feelings impossible to verify, but director Mary Harron has a novel way of getting around this: offer no new material and no useful perspective. Her Page (Gretchen Mol) is whisked through her CV (abusive father/husband/gang of rapists, nude model and softcore bondage queen, religious true believer) and given only the barest threads of motive for posing: she was, like, giving and innocent, yknow?
In fact, the film is more interesting for sketching the erotic underground of the 50 from voyeuristic "camera clubs run by excited shutterbugs to the ultra-blasé back-room operation of Irving Klaw (Steven Bauer) and his half-sister Paula (Lili Taylor) than in saying anything about the woman who justifies the movie.
Theres no narrative, no thesis and thus no point beyond the bragging rights for bagging of a hipster icon for the silver screen. The period detail is indeed meticulous (though in that cutesy movie still way that fails to convince as real life) but despite juggling stock footage and designed fakery it still falls flat on its face in suggesting human behaviour or the politics of porn.
Though theres enough interest on the fringes to keep you watching, I walked out bewildered as to what Harron was up to and why anyone should care. Instead of training the camera on the teeming, fascinating underworld that she could very easily have analysed, the director chooses instead to improvise the views of a wild card than record any phenomenon for which she can actually vouch. (Alliance Atlantis)