Dirty Pictures (2000) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)
|Dirty Pictures is a made-for-showtime film
about the infamous Robert Mapplethorpe exhibition in
Cincinnati. The legal issue was whether the art gallery
and its director were guilty of publicly displaying
It is clear that he was not legally guilty. It is not possible to argue that the pictures have no artistic merit, an argument which is essential to prove an obscenity conviction, irrespective of the subject matter. The prosecution didn't even present any case that the pictures were obscene!
The national media controversy, however, centered around much more than the narrow legal issues.
Interesting issue with no real room for common ground for the opposed viewpoints.
The film combines actual footage from real people on both sides of the controversy - President Bush, Salman Rushdie, Barney Frank, William Buckley and others - with a fictionalized "docudrama" re-creation of the events.
|I'd say the film's greatest weakness is that it is one-sided. The opponents of the show are generally pictured as corrupt politicians in a good old boy league with one another, or conspiratorial religious zealots with no grasp on reality, or both. The district attorney is pictured as an obese and satanic southern caricature, ala Orson Welles in "Touch of Evil". The judge is pictured as having ignored all law and all common sense to impose his own view on the results.||
major weakness is that nobody really defends the art on
artistic grounds. Even the supporters of the arts, and
the museum director himself, even the first amendment
lawyers are shown to be embarrassed, often disgusted by
The film is really into making the point that freedom of speech must extend even to the most disgusting opposing viewpoints. As Salman Rushdie comments on screen, you believe in freedom of speech only if you believe in the right of people to say what is unpalatable to you. Otherwise, you're only supporting people's right to agree with you. But I'm not sure if Mapplethorpe is so uniformly suitable for this purpose. After all, he isn't the American Nazi Party or Larry Flynt. He was a genuine aesthete, and a brilliant photographer, but the film tends to make a joke of the art experts who defend him on artistic grounds.
The controversial pictures:
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