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
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
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
Have a spookily musical Halloween this year.
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