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Mark Boone Junior,
Portrait of an American innocent. In 1955, Bettie Page (1923-2008 ) waits to testify before a Senate subcommittee investigating the effects of pornographic material on American adolescents and juveniles. In flashbacks, we see her childhood in Tennessee, a brief marriage, a gang rape, and her going to New York City in 1949. There she takes acting lessons, models for photos, and acts in short films for adults, earning the nickname, "The Pin-Up Queen of the Universe." We see her relationship with merchants Irving and Paula Klaw, photographers John Willie and Bunny Yeager, boyfriends, and the public. Through it all, she is wholesome, sporting, and forthright - Eve before the fall. Written by
Guinevere Turner was originally set to star as Bettie Page. Though she did not appear in an acting capacity, she stayed as screenwriter. See more »
In one 'bondage shoot' scene, Jared Harris shoots the bound Betty with a Leica camera, lens retracted. Collapsible lenses on Leicas need to be extended to shooting position for proper focusing. Shooting with a lens retracted will result in blurred pictures, and all photographers who shot with Leicas should know that. See more »
[Bettie reacts angrily when John sings a ribald song during a bondage photo shoot]
What's the matter, Bettie?
[John pulls the gag from Bettie's mouth]
It's your language, Mr. Willie.
Oh, it's just an old army ditty to help keep our spirits up while fighting the beastly Hun. Do you approve?
I believe in Jesus.
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craft service - Grover Cleveland, craft service assistant - Benjamin Harrison See more »
not too surprising it's an HBO film, but a good one nonetheless, with a terrific lead in Moll
I had a vague idea of who Bettie Page was, partly due to her appearance in the very wee days of Playboy (apparently, when she got her photo taken of her and her Santa hat, just that, she didn't know what the mag was). The movie, co-written and directed by American Psycho's Mary Harron, fleshes out the key parts of her life well enough. A southern belle of a church goer has some bad experiences and leaves them behind to seek better times in New York City, where she gets into modeling, and from there a lot more. Soon, she becomes the underground pin-up sensation, with bondage the obvious (and "notorious" of the title) trait attributed to her. The actress Gretchen Moll portrays her, and gets down the spirit of this woman about as well as she could, which is really a lot of the success of the film. She's not a simplistic character, even if at times her ideas of morality are questionable ("well, Adam and Eve were naked, weren't they?" she comments a couple of times). Apparently, the filmmakers leave out the later years of Page's life and leave off with her in a kind of redemptive period, leaving behind the photo shoots for Jesus.
In all, the Notrious Bettie Page is not much more than a kind of usual bio-pic presented by HBO films, albeit this time with the stamina for a feature-film release. The best scenes that Harron captures are Page in her "questionable" positions, getting photos of her in over-the-top poses and starring in ridiculous films of whips and chains and leather uniforms. This adds a much needed comic relief to the film's otherwise usual nature. It's not that the story behind it is uninteresting, which involves the government's investigation into the 'smut' that came out of such photos and underground magazines. But there isn't much time given to explore more of what is merely hinted at, with Page and her complexities or her relationships or to sex and the fifties. It's all given a really neat black and white look and sometimes it seemed as if Harron was progressing some of the black and white photos to be tinted more as it went along. It's a watchable view if you're not too knowledgeable of Bette Page, and probably for fans too.
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