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Denofcinema.com: Saturday Night at the Movies by Dennis Hartley review archive

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Saturday, December 09, 2006

Saturday Night At The Movies

I’m With the Banned: Two new docs for free speech groupies

By Dennis Hartley

If blowing the lid off the f-bomb doesn’t sound like fodder for a revelatory documentary in 2006, you’re probably right. “Fuck” (in theaters now) makes an admirable attempt to examine the impact of its namesake in the context of history, politics, religion, the media, popular culture and everyday life. Myriad talking heads are employed-vox populi, actors, musicians, writers, comics, media pundits, linguists, psychologists, etc. Conservative Citizens of Puritan Nation (Pat Boone, Michael Medved, Miss Manners, etc.) and the NPR Lovin’ Civil Libertarians (Bill Maher, Hunter Thompson, Janeane Garofalo, etc.) play predictable point/counterpoint via dueling sound bites, interspersed with archival footage from films, TV and newsreels. The overall effect is akin to one of those VH-1/E! Network pop culture countdowns-“The 50 Most Outrageous F-Bomb Moments!” There are a few well-focused segments-a tribute to Lenny Bruce, a brief examination of the FCC’s Orwellian Michel Powell era (Janet Jackson’s nipple, Howard Stern’s fines and Bono’s “fookin’ brilliant” award acceptance speech), and a review of George Carlin’s “7 words you can’t say on TV” (which you wish they would play in its entirety, because that one bit delivers a more profound denouement regarding censorship than the documentary itself!). The film is a great tease, but there’s not enough of a payoff to make you crave a cigarette afterwards.(Note: “Fuck” only ran for a week here in good ‘ol liberal Seattle, so I suspect it may not be on a lot of screens-you may have to wait for the DVD!).

Billed as a “feel good flick with fun, filth and felonious assault”, filmmaker James Guardino’s "Porn King" (Blue Underground DVD) is a peephole-eyed profile of notorious “Screw Magazine” publisher Al Goldstein. After a perfunctory review of Goldstein’s early years and subsequent rise to riches and infamy, the film directs its focus to the story of a three-year court battle kindled by a relatively minor verbal harassment charge brought against him by his ex-secretary in 2001. Goldstein’s “glory days” of first amendment battles were ancient history by the time Guardino started filming, and it becomes obvious that this final skirmish is less about freedom of speech and more about media attention (in this jaded age of mainstream post-Madonna porn chic, old-school “smut peddlers” like Goldstein appear to have lost their cachet). The film bears unblinking witness to the dethroning, as his riches turn quite literally into rags (at one point, a humbled Goldstein is actually begging the cameraman for a few bucks because he doesn’t want to spend another night in a homeless shelter). It’s still tough to feel sorry for him, because up to this point in the story he is shown to be so unrelentingly self-destructive and compulsively abrasive toward everyone he comes in contact with. Still, there is a morbid fascination factor here that makes “Porn King” an interesting watch.

Still not feeling persecuted enough? Here are some more free-speech flicks I recommend:

Lenny, Lenny Bruce: Swear To Tell The Truth, The Aristocrats, The People vs. Larry Flynt, Inside Deep Throat, Talk Radio, 1776 (no, I am not being facetious).

Let me also take this opportunity to gush shamelessly and thank you for making me feel so welcome to the Hullabaloo family, and for your enlightening comments-keep ‘em coming!