Monday, 10 December 2007


How accurate should a biopic be ? To be honest, I don't really care one way or the other. I tend to go along with John Ford's dictum "When the legend becomes fact - print the legend." Once you invent dialogue the film becomes fiction anyway and when you get to the nitty gritty no film is going to present more than a thumbnail sketch of its subject. I really know very little about Bettie Page's life but this film seems to me to do justice to her reputation as "Pinup Queen of the Universe" and the film seems to capture the appeal of her work much in the same way that Tim Burton's ED WOOD captured the work of its chosen subject. Everybody seems to agree that Bettie was pretty naive about the nature of her bondage photos (which were only a part of her work) and the film suggests that if she later had doubts about the influence such photos had she certainly did not have such qualms about her more mainstream pinup pictures - even the nude ones after her Born Again Christian experience. It is refreshing to see that Bettie's faith is accepted by the film rather than used to ridicule her. The simplicity of her life long religious belief is shown as an element in her make-up. Bettie is, I think, remembered today for the "fun" element in her photos, even the bondage stuff has a camp naivity (certainly compared to some of the sicko stuff of today). The film is very well directed by Mary Harron (who also co-wrote) and has a genuinely 50's feel to it with gritty b/w New York scenes and imaginatively used colour sequences (Harron is a Sam Fuller fan and it shows) and there is not a bad performance in the movie with Gretchen Mol absolutely outstanding as Bettie. Also I have to mention the wonderful soundtrack of records by such luminaries as Peggy Lee, Artie Shaw, Art Pepper, Patsy Cline and Julie London. Rating ****

1 comment:

Cerpts said...

Like most males on the planet, I've been sighing over Bettie Page for years. However, I've never had a chance to see this film. I also agree with you and John Ford (not bad company) about biopics -- they ain't history, they're movies. I just watched Ford's "Prisoner of Shark Island" last night and it both plays fast and loose with the "historical facts" while remaining a pretty good film (you just KNOW there'll be something about this movie on my blog soon enough). As for the Bettie Page movie, from your comments I actually want to see it now. I also agree with your comments about the fun and naivete of Bettie's photographs (including the bondage ones). They are never even remotely realistic or disturbing. I liken Bettie's bondage photos with the following analogy: Bettie Page's bondage photos are to bondage as Road Runner cartoon violence is to violence. However, while they are silly fun I never liked them nearly as much as her non-bondage photos (clothed or unclothed). Bettie is the number one example, I think, of a model's personality and charm leaping out at you in every photograph. Sure, she was gorgeous. . .but there wouldn't be nearly the fan following for her if we didn't all fall in love with her personality (which shines through) as well as her looks. I'm going to have to seek out this film now.