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10 September, 2006

Review: 'The Notorious Bettie Page' (2005)

Curiously superficial.
I suppose the significance of Bettie Page in post-1980s popular culture arises from the 1950s photos rather than the woman herself, so there wasn't much to really say about that period of her life.

In fact, in portraying her as an easy-going innocent, the film objectifies her as much as the original magazines did. She doesn't come across as an active participant who understood what she was doing; it seems that if she hadn't happened to be there at the time, the Klaws and John Willie could easily have worked with another model, and if it wasn't for her distinctive physical appearence, Page wouldn't be remembered fifty years later. A failing of the film is that I have no greater insight into whether that's accurate than before I went into the cinema. Essentially, this is the story of the photographs rather than of Page herself.

Aside from the thin narrative and overall lack of substance, the film looks good: casting Gretchen Mol as Page was an inspired decision, and filming in black & white with interludes of hypersaturated colour provides a strong sense of the time. I suppose the very omission of sexuality, which weakens the story, was evocative of 'wholesome' (aka sanitised) 1950s films, too.

Not awful, but not really recommended, either.

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