DOASKDOTELL MOVIE REVIEWs of Student Seduction, The Woodsman, Just Ask My Children, Witch Hunt, Book of Love, Capturing the Friedmans, Gone in the Night, She’s Too Young, Kids, Tadpole, The Tin Drum, Lolita (2 films), Casualties of Love, The Obsession, The Mark , Man in the Mirror: The Michael Jackson Story    ,  Me and You and Everyone We Know, Ma mere , Crutch , Too Young to Be a Dad , For a Lost Soldier , Pretty Boy , Frisk , Night of the Iguana , Hard Candy, The Night Listener, Whole New Thing, The History Boys, Notes on a Scandal, A Map of the World, Kiss of the Spider Woman, M, Towelhead, Schoolboy Crush, America (general remark)

 

Title:  Student Seduction

Release Date:  2004

Nationality and Language: USA, English

Running time: 115 minutes

MPAA Rating:  PG-13

Distributor and Production Company:  Lions Gate Films/Lifetime/CineGroupe

Director; Writer:  Peter Svatek, wr. Edithe Swensen

Producer:

Cast:   Elizabeth Berkley, Corey Sevier

Technical: television film formant

Relevance to doaskdotell site:

Review:

 

This powerful film would certainly be in line for Oscars if a theatrical rather than cable release. Perhaps it is just to heavy for theaters, but I think Lions Gate should definitely put it out there.

 

The setup is the nightmare scenario. A teacher is accused of sexual abuse of a student (Josh), who looks like he came right out of Swimfan. But it is a female teacher, when actually the teenage male student nearly raped her. But, she had behaved inappropriately a couple of times, setting herself to be set up or framed for “leading him on.” She gets forced to take a plea bargain, and become a convicted felon and registered sex offender. But at the last minute, another victim of the boy has the courage to come forward.

 

Yes, this film just had to have a happy ending, because if the plea bargain had stood up, the nebulous moral message would just be too heavy to take. Society’s interest in protecting minors certainly invites political opportunism of district attorneys, particularly when wealthy members of the community can buy protection for their children. But the need to protect children extends further, and sometimes ensnares those who make errors in judgment or perception, or perhaps set examples that encourage others to commit real crimes. Here, the 27 year old female chemistry teacher agrees to tutor an attractive teenage male student, then agrees to go off campus for a hamburger with him. And she lets him fix her car. Two mistakes. A zero-tolerance environment that school systems have to use these days could get a teacher fried just for this. It isn’t right, or is it? After all, the need to protect minors is so great that sometimes we have to punish someone, and ignore the truth. To her credit, she was firm with him in her speech, and the school’s principal did not act quickly enough when Josh started getting out of hand. Furthermore, why didn’t the fact that she was already happily married with a child along the way provide more practical ammunition for the defense in creating a reasonable doubt (to prevent a conviction)?

 

Of course, here, the boy is guilty, his parents buy off the DA; in real life, sadly, these things can really happen. DA’s really will go on witch-hunts for their own political gain. The screenplay is masterful with its pacing and beats, moving the heroine deeper into the crisis with a logical final resolution. This is breakout screenwriting.

 

In real life, the issues can be even more complicated. Say, an older male gay teacher not already in a relationship with someone his own age might really make an setup inviting target, since he would be bonding to young attractive males in teacher-student relationships. (Yes, inaction can also become a problem—or that is, lack of commitment or lack of socialization). It’s easy to imagine other variations of this story. All too easy. So, whatever the political correctness and concerns for non-discrimination, it’s easy to suggest that some people should not consider teaching—and yet we need more teachers, we need retired people to become teachers.

 

The story does take the old problem—why do bad things happen to good people? Because good people can make small mistakes when part of a permissive culture, and get trapped.

 

For more information on sexual misconduct in the school systems (this link refers to California but it is pretty typical, although CA has 18 as the age of consent, higher than many other states):

 

http://www.csba.org/csmag/Fall04/csMagStoryTemplate.cfm?id=48

 

The Dr. Phil presented a true case from Glen Rose, Texas about a French teacher on Nov. 1 and 2, 2007; blogger discussion here.

 

Foxfire (1996, Samuel Goldwyn / Rysher, dir. Annette Haywood Carter, 103 min, R). Five high school girls go on the lam after retaliating against a high school biology teacher who apparently makes an inappropriate advance. Blogger.

 

The Woodsman (2004, New Market Films, 87 min, R, dir. Nicole Kassell) is another example of the young company New Market Films being interested in releasing sharp-edged, controversial films about disturbing topics. Kevin Bacon helped produce this and stars as a paroled convicted (heterosexual!!) pedophile, Walter, forced to register as a sex-offender when he is released to live in a small apartment in Philadelphia. (Let’s add: finally, Kevin Bacon at 46 has a little hair on his chest, but it has turned gray and would look better gone—but then again, the “normal” intimate scenes with Vickie (Kyra Sedgwick) look appropriately earthy and uncouth.)  Now, the film first impresses us with the enormous social stigma that he faces, in the workplace (a redneck lumberyard), and even from understanding family members like Carlos (Benjamin Bratt). His parole officer, Sgt. Lucas (Mos Def) chews him out with unannounced visits. (I’m surprised that Lucas doesn’t seize Walter’s handwritten diary.) Now, we are not sure why he was allowed to rent an apartment overlooking a school playground, but eventually he will witness an event that gives him a chance at some partial redemption. In the meantime, he is tempted and taken to the edge, especially by a little girl watching robins and purple martins in a city park. This movie gains its brutal effectiveness with the simplicity of the writing (Nicole Kassell and Steven Fechter) and dialogue, and the climatic scene where he risks life in prison by inviting her to sit in his lap is a major example. Audience members squirmed in this scene. Of course, had that been all he ever did, it’s not clear that he would have committed a crime at all, and it seems as though with the two “molestations” for which he was convicted, it is not clear that he really “did” very much. (He says he did not harm the girls, but the dialogue is seasoned with occasional hyperboles on the subject from other characters.)

 

The films reviewed so far, considered together, raise another disturbing notion, that a particular mark might become a target for pedophilia accusations because of the context of various circumstances. When I was in the Army, the topic was sometimes mentioned and generally the men thought that pedophiles were men (or women) who could not related in a “normal” intimate way to their own equals (that is, other adults). In his sessions with his psychiatrist (David Alan Grier?) the idea comes out that his interest in younger minors could have come out of unusual childhood conditioning. However, we know, for example, that many of the molestations in the Catholic priesthood seem to be related to the fact that, with the ban on (heterosexual) marriage for priests, the priesthood tends to attract men who are disinterested in lineage, blood relationships or responsibility for their own families. (Historically the problem may go all the way back to the days of the sale of indulgences and of simony.)  An older person, particularly male, who seems interested only in “emerging adults” (that is, teens) or even young adults but who shows no ability to maintain romantic or erotic interests in his own age group (or who perhaps has contempt for his own age) might attract suspicion in some kinds of situations. This certainly seems like an idea that ought to be explored in the movies (however difficult – Student Seduction does this with a female subject, and reminds us that this kind of problem can catch “normal married” people, as does Just Ask My Children, below). Seemingly private sexual interest can be monitored in incarceration situations, as with pupilometrics or with penile plethysmography, so inclinations may become more apparent to others than a subject would want to admit.

 

“The Woodsman” reminds me of a black-and-white film The Mark (1961), directed by Guy Green (written by Sidney Buchman based on a novel by Charles E. Israel) distributed by Continental, in which a youngish man Jim Fuller (Stuart Whitman) is released from prison after conviction of trying to commit child molestation. I saw this film in New York City later in 1964 on a visit to the New York World’s Fair with college and high school friends, one of whom I recall characterized this as a “very good movie.” The 60s Worlds Fair (Flushing) time in New York City was a bit of a paranoid time for the gay community, when many gay bars were closed down out of public paranoia and the need to “clean up the City” particularly after one unfortunate incident at the Fair.

 

Another film depicting a witch-hunt for child molesters with the legal system run amok is Just Ask My Children (2001, Startlight/Firebrand, dir. Arvin Brown, 101 min, R). This film was also called “Best Intentions.” Here, two parents Scott and Brenda Kniffen (Jeffrey Nording, Virginia Madsen) are framed by politically hungry prosecutors in Bakersfield, CA in the early 1980s for raping their children, upon a rumor from a vindictive relative. The scenes where the sheriff comes to their house in the early morning to arrest her, and to arrest him at work, are chilling; they are government doing what it wants running wild. Yet the Kniffens are targeted not for non-conformism, but just because of arbitrary vindictiveness and corruption; this could happen to anyone. (Although, behind the scenes, one wonders if the family had made enemies, soap opera style, bringing out the relative and then the prosecution. It can happen.)  At one point, in prison, Brenda even denies that faith or an afterlife could save her. The young boys are coerced by prosecutors into making up abuses that did not happen. Twelve years later, when the boys are young men able to do the right thing, they wrestle the problem away from the politicians, especially the younger brother Brian who, at 16, is played by a very nimble Ephram-like Gregory Smith (Everwood), who is labeled in the credits as a guest star. This case seems to have been covered by NBC “Dateline” “Secrets & Lies” on July 1, 2006.

 

Witch Hunt (2009, MSNBC/Good Machine/KTF, dir. Don Hardy and Dana Nachman, Executive Producer and narrator: Sean Penn. Same cases. Blogger

http://billsmoviereviews.blogspot.com/2009/10/witch-hunt-examines-overzealous.html

 

Book of Love (Sundance/Showtime/Ahrens, 2004, dir. Alan Brown, 83 min, R – there are two other unrelated films by that name) presents Gregory Smith as Chet, a precocious 15 year old soda jerk (he just “scoops”) and high school swimming jock (in the opening scene he gets dunked) who befriends a high school history teacher David (Simon Baker) and his wife Elaine (Frances O’Connor). Pretty soon he comes between them. He kisses Elaine while David is asleep (she reacts with the line, “That was new!”), and pretty soon it gets to be a fling, even with the wind chimes of Body Heat. David soon finds out, and “conspires” to invite Chet to Disneyland for a confrontation that might be misinterpreted as a gay fling. As for Gregory Smith, this seems like a snippet from the Ephram-Madison story line of Everwood, and here Smith acts the part very much as if he were Ephram. The couple seems to have little or no concern about the illegality of all this. The film intermixes David’s interest in the Khmer Rouge, and Chet is smart enough to know who Pol Pot is. There interesting little details in the direction that aim to heighten the eroticism: in a swim meet at the end of the movie, the high school swimmers look shaved and peaked whereas they are not in the opening scene (remember Swimfan?)  The DVD includes a short interview with the director, in which he describes his philosophy concerning the randomness of turns in life and the cultural context that defines most of our ideas about morality. He also states that Simon Baker gained about 15 pounds for the role as the husband, so as to have a slight pot belly or paunch (not that noticeable in most scenes, though with a hairless chest he does look a bit sloppy and immature himself). Perhaps the purpose was to underscore his wife’s apparent ephebophilia.

 

A shocking documentary along the same lines is Capturing the Friedmans (2003, Magnolia/HBO/Miramax, 107 min, dir. Andrew Jarecki, rec. R), which traces the fall of an upper middle class Jewish family on Long Island (in Great Neck) after accusations of pedophilia which has some basis, but not what the police thought. It starts when Arnold Friedman, a happily married (with at least three sons) middle-aged teacher, musician and computer consultant has ordered at least one piece of child pornography by mail from the Netherlands, for private but secretive enjoyment. In 1984, the USPS sets up a sting and fibbies arrest him. Now Friedman has been giving a private computer technology class to kids and soon there are accusations of pedophilia with boys, largely trumped up by Nassau County police. Friedman is pressured into a guilty plea, but, tragically, his 19-year-old son Jesse is dragged into the charges also and pressured into a false confession for a “lighter” sentence. No jury will believe them after the media frenzy. Jesse didn’t do this, but Arnold had been guilty of a few indiscretions with minors, but not when teaching his class. So both men pleaded guilty to crimes they didn’t commit and which, in fact, did not occur. Police pressured the kids into making up stories. Jesse gets out after 13 years and does get a life insurance benefit which barely escapes cancellation by Arnold’s suicide. An important point is that Arnold’s guilty plea ruined Jesse’s chances for a trial.  The family’s home videos make an intriguing part of this film. (In this regard, it is worth mentioning that people have been prosecuted for developing pictures of family intimacy!)  This would be a good film for advanced placement civics classes on the criminal justice system. 

 

HBO offers a bonus disc, including various items, most of all an interview between Mr. Jarecki and Charles Rose, and ornery debates at the screenings in Tribeca in New York City.  Jarecki had started with a relatively modest documentary project: clowns who perform for children in New Yort City (an older brother David Friedman). He would gradually learn about this family tragedy, which would be filmable partly because of the family home 8mm videos. Jarecki insists that the police handled the case poorly and probably staged the charges because of political pressure for a witch-hunt. One item that comes out is that some of the boys (now grown) indicated that police harassed them into thinking that they would grow up gay if they did not agree that they had been molested. Judge Abbey Boklan however, makes a lot at the debates of the guilty pleas. The family footage or the Seder, and then of Jesse’s last day before jail are revealing, as Jesse must make up an answering machine message before going to prison. Thirteen years aged Jesse considerably. I find it very had to believe that Jesse could have committed any molestations (if in fact they occurred), because attractive teenage young men rarely commit such crimes or have any reason to (although the film makes something of Jesse’s possiblt having been molested himself). What invites the witch-hunt? Sometimes if you do something small that makes others see you as an enemy, it will be very difficult to fend off big charges later even when they are false. 

 

The bonus disc also shows a recording session in Rome with composer Andrea Morricone (also Bill Harrington).

 

Gone in the Night (1996, LGF/ Hill/Fields, 220 min, Bill Norton, dir.) was a TV film, sometimes played on Lifetime, that presents another view of criminal justice run amok, this time in very political Chicago Cook County and Richard Daly’s machine in the late 1980s. A father (Kevin Dillon) is accused and wrongly convicted of murdering his daughter when she is kidnapped at night and the parents fail to waken. The couple (inc. Shannon Doherty) is also accused of child sex abuse. The film studiously lays out the criminal justice process in detail, which accounts for its length. The redemption at the end with the Appeals Court needed more development. The title, yes, reminds me of Margaret Mitchell.

 

Another film to look at underage teen sex is She’s Too Young (2004, LGF/Lifetime/Jaffe/Braunstein, 100 min, dir. Richard Kletter), presents the world from the point of view of a 14 year old girl Marcis (Trish Vogul), who is gently seduced by rich boy 16 year old (Mike Erwin – I believe his was Colin on Everwood) in scenes that make him more interesting than her. That’s the problem. (She does wind up getting oral syphilis from him.) The adolescent boys see conquering girls as a social requirement, and girls see giving as required to belong. Of course, they are playing the game of long term survival—some day they may really need families of their own—but they hardly understand that consciously yet. Only the skinny dwork Tommy (Joe Dinocol), gets it (the resentful other boys call him gay), as he slows her down and wants to wait, while to goes around with his camera cell phone snapping pictures of bad behavior of other boys. The parents and schools organize around the STD thing, and make the point that today’s fast-paced and self-expressive culture makes older values, aimed at family and the welfare of the group, impossible to maintain.

 

The Climb (1996, Vanguard, dir Bob Swaim) moved to this file.

 

The evening (5/1/2004) on Lifetime also featured Obsessed, with Jenna Elfman and Sam Robards. Again, a woman is pined for sexual assault, here after an affair with a surgeon. The plot gets muddied and confused by her own writing and tendency to refer to herself in the third person. Apparently there are ghosts in her own psyche.

 

On 5/5/2004 Lifetime presented Stolen from the Heart (with Tracey Gold, Barbara Mandrell), in which a woman steals a baby right out of the womb of a female “friend” in an amateur midwife-like delivery to give her husband a child. This takes a lot of plotting but it is hard to make it matter; one is left just with melodrama. Could this really happen?

 

Kids (1995, Trimark, dir. Larry Clark, ex producer Gus Van Sant, 90 min, R) – perhaps this should have been called “The Kids”—presents us with skinny, too-young Telly (Leo Fitzpatrick) as on a heterosexual rampage trying to deflower as many virgins as possible. Along the way one of his marks (Sarah Henderson) shows up as HIV positive, and then so does he, although that doesn’t provide much of a dramatic payoff. His friend Casper (Justin Pierce) with the gratuitous tattoo disfiguring a hairy leg is just as revolting, hiding booze in his pantlegs in a convenience store as preparation to illegal drinking and drugs. (Casper also commits a graphic rape.) The language in the film in tiresome as well as revolting (I won’t repeat it here, but you can imagine…), and the characters never make us care very much about them. What is all this sex for, anyway? (No lecture here about marriage.) Technically very well done, filmed in New York City. Of course, this film does teach the valuable message that, now twenty years into the HIV epidemic, heterosexual promiscuity (with unprotected sex) may be almost as dangerous as male homosexual chain-letter sex.

 

Tadpole (Miramax/IFC/Indigent, 2002, dir. Gary Winick; wr. Gary Winick, Heather McGowen, Neils Mueller, 77 min, PG-13) plays the teenage boy loving older women as almost as a situation comedy, in a little film that seems like a transposition of Everwood back to New York with a light touch.  Everwood, remember, presents prodigious Ephram (Gregory Smith) at 16 in a sexual relationship with a 20-year-old Madison (his sister’s babysitter) to prove his emerging manhood. In the case of 15-year-old Oscar Grubman (Aaron Stanford), the motive is murkier, at the time he starts having sex. The subject matter sounds dirty—Oscar first falls for a 40-year-old masseuse Bebe (Diane Lodder), who happens to be wearing a fetish object from his M.D. stepmother Eve (Sigourney Weaver, as from Alien). So he is falling in love with his own stepmother. The other characters always call him either Oscar or “Tadpole.” Trouble is, Oscar looks and talks like a medical student (the actor who plays him was 25 when the movie was shot), not like a high school teen (‘cept when his shirt is off). No, he is not larval, and he is not really a tadpole; he looks pretty hot. So, after all, the PG-13 film hardly seems seedy. Fluent in French and humanities as well as science, his maturity has a softer edge than does, say, Ephram’s in Everwood. Of course, any high school teacher wishes to have a class filled with Oscar, Ephram, and Clark.  They call it advanced placement. That isn’t real life. The DVD contains an ad for Project Greenlight, and this film may have been a submission on the 2002 contest.

 

Miramax offers a commentary on the DVD, by director Gary Winick. This film was in DV shot for $150,000 and was shown at Sundance. Winick discusses the technical details of some scenes, such as the ADRs, continuity of shoulder shots, and the like. This is a good exercise for film students. He mentions some of the humor (such as the “dog shaving”) and points out the one scene where the stepmother steps into the bathroom and sees Oscar as a “man,” shirtless, brush-shaving (his face). Again, Oscar is as likeable and mature as any “teen” character I have seen in the movies or in a drama series. Trouble is, he really isn’t a teen. 

 

There is an episode from TheWB Smallville, Season 2, “Heat” in which a female biology teacher approaches Clark (a high school sophomore and presumably underage) for a sexual liaison (triggering Clark’s “heat vision”).

 

The Tin Drum (Die Blechtrommel, 1979, Worldwide/Janus, 142 min, dir. Volker Schlondorff, very hard R or NC-17) is based on Gunter Grass’s famous expressionistic novel, which I read while stationed at Fort Eustis (or “Useless”) in the Army, at the suggestion of a buddy who liked to call himself Rado Suhl (and me, “Chickenman”). I had just finished Atlas Shrugged. Like so many literary milestones, this works on two levels: (1) a commentary of German society, particularly in the contested area of Danzig, during the rise and fall of Hitler and Nazism [I add here that I think that someone should make a film about how a mature Gentile teen living in 1930s Germany would feel as he began to have doubts about the Nazi idea of meritocracy] (2) a parable about a genius boy who doesn’t want to grow up (he decides to remain physically a three year old after a fall, and takes comfort in banging his tin drum, the way an immature sixth grader would ban on percussion in a beginning middle school band class). Oskar Matzerath (David Bennent) is an antonym for the Oscar of Tadpole; not too likeable in my estimation (remember that Oscar in the above film is almost a role model for teen maturity) perhaps he is somewhat autistic, at least to the point of Asperger’s. He doesn’t want to grow up because, well, the world is pretty scary, and, furthermore, he doesn’t need to. He can raise more mayhem by remaining a little boy, with his high pitched shriek that often breaks glass in a number of spectacular scenes (obviously a reference to the Nazi “Crystal Night.”)  In fact, the movie shows his birth literally, from being inside the comforts of the womb—pro-lifers ought to love that. But, in fact, this film has been hard to exhibit. It may cross the line of child pornography laws in some states, as in Oklahoma where a district attorney tried to ban it. The DVD has several provocative scenes (I don’t know if they were all in theater versions). For example, after Oskar drives his mother to death with an eating disorder (plenty of on-camera vomiting, and that Clive Barker image of a fish-within-a-fish-within-a-fish (Imajica, Third Dominion)), he hides under the skirt of something like a Frank Herbert Reverend Mother, and then the really juicy stuff starts.  At age 14 but still with the body of a 3 year old, he acts on the private parts of 16-year-old Maria (Katharina Thalbach), then climbs under the sheets with her for more action involving licking. All of this seems like NC-17 to me, but it really is not titillating at all, and not at all erotic; it is more a legal curiosity. ((West) German laws are probably more liberal on this than American.) He gets under the covers again, apparently with a transsexual, if I followed it. It seems that, as a 3 year old, he has “fathered” another 3 year old—depending on how you interpret things. After the War, he falls into a grave but recovers, and, at age 20, decides that it is time to grow up. It’s not too late. The music score by Maurice Jarre is haunting and Mahlerian.

 

Lolita (1997, Trimark/Samuel Goldwyn, dir. Adrian Lyne, wr. Stephen Schiff, adapted from novel by Vladimir Nabolov, 137 min, R) presents the inverse problem from Tadpole, and a more common one: a middle-aged man in love with an underage girl. And the story is indeed provocative: the girl (Delores “Lolita” Haze, played by Dominique Swain) is Humbert’s (Jeremy Irons) stepdaughter. A prologue in France shows 14-year-old Humbert losing an earlier love, which in 1947 sets up his situation: he takes a teaching job at a small college, and boards with Charlotte Haze, who quickly leaves a letter that she is in love with him and must either marry her or leave. He marries, and then Charlotte dies in an interesting car accident. Then 14-year-old Lolita starts to tease him. They go on the road together (providing delicate situations when they rent hotel rooms together), and well…  The story turns into paranoia as Humbert imagines he is being followed (is he?), Lolita gets sick, and then is apparently kidnapped from the hospital, setting up a final violent confrontation with plenty of bizarre male nudity (ironically) and violence. Lolita, well, yes, she does look underage. I would have written a story where he gets arrested for his sexual indiscretions, but many moviegoers probably found that the movie, however long, provided a bigger payoff as written. It should be remembered that Lolita initiates most of the temptations, which finally become too much.  I did not like the characters much myself in this film, so the “dirtiness” comes through, in comparison with Tadpole where the characters are so likeable.

 

Stanley Kubrick had directed an black-and-white earlier film in 1962 (MGM), where the novelist wrote his own adaptation, and this film is said to be more of a comedy. The film was certainly considered risky in its day. James Mason is prof. Himbert, Selley Winters is the mother who dies in a car wreck, and Sue Lyon is Lolita.  Its opening credit shows a hand giving Lolita a pedicure, with the leg surprisingly slightly hairy. It isn’t in the same scene in the film, which is low key but has lots of confrontations nevertheless. The opening is in a black and white fog, and moves to Clare Qulty’s (Peter Sellers) messy home for the shootout, with the entire film in retrospect. At one point Quilty is waiting for him in a darkened room for a confrontation. At another point, as the Professor is on the run with Lolita, a detective calls him. When he tries to pick her up at the hospital, the staff threatens to strait-jacket him, a believable idea for the early 1960s (remember my own stay at NIH that same year). But the film shows that pedophilia could be tackled even in old times (although in some southern states, 14 is a legal age for girls to marry). This book and film are responsible for the colloquial term “Lolita syndrome,” see below.

 

For a news story in 2008 on a British shop that tried to sell a Lolita bed, go here. 

 

Casualties of Love: The Long Island Lolita Story (1993, TriStar, dir. John Herzfeld, R) is the “true” story of Joey Buttafuoco and his “affair” (or “non-affair”) with underage Amy Fisher. She comes on to him, and then tries to destroy his marriage to have him. She tries to hire kids to kill his wife, and then she eventually shoots her herself when making an unannounced “visit” in 1992 shortly before her 18th birthday. The wife survives and does not want a plea bargain, which seems predicated on the idea that the DA would go after Joey for statutory rape or some offense with a minor. It gets nasty: the insurance company for his father’s family auto repair business wants to cancel because of Joey’s apparent involvement with a minor. Amy’s lawyers try to frame Joey for complicity in the shooting; Joey is made to look a bit like a “Job” character. The film does not tell us that Joey actually served six months, and that his record (as least on Wikipedia) shows other offenses. In the film, reporters seem to egg the prosecution on with mean, leading interviews, behavior that seems like a clear violation of acceptable journalistic professional conduct (at least according to the Newseum Ethics exhibit). The film does make the point that an older man can get set up and then falsely accused by a minor, a frightening possibility. Being a “stable” married man is not necessarily protective; it might bring it on.  Now the film is shown on Lifetime, and there are two other TV films on this from different points of view. 

 

The Obsession (2006, Lions Gate/Lifetime/Frontstreet, dir. David Winkler, wr. Christopher Morro, about 100 min, Canada, sug. R) seems as if it might replay “Lolita.” A heterosexual male ballet instructor Reed Halton (Sebastian Spence) takes a job teaching young teenage girls at a private ballet academy, apparently in Vancouver. He takes it all too quickly after the oafish older guy disappeared and was found to have shot himself. Well, maybe not. In the meantime, Deborah Matthews (Daphne Zuniga) has divorced her husband, while her 16-year-old daughter Erika (Elise Gatien) takes lessons at the academy. Erika dates a responsible young teen Jesse (young German actor Nolan Funk). Reed “moves in” on the family, first starting intimacy with Deborah, while setting sights on her daughter. About 75 minutes into the film, everything is falling into place, with the help of an alert detective. One of Deborah’s colleagues at an architecture film goes to a vigilante website “Creepwatch.com” (a kind of “Perverted Justice”) and finds Reed’s criminal history. Here, the screenplay is not clear as to whether creepwatch posted unconvicted allegations that Reed really was a sex offender—and there would be interesting legal questions as to whether a private website can do that (post suspects who are not convicted). The police find that Reed had been stalking the Matthews family for a long time (maybe with the help of “skip tracer” websites) and had collected objectively innocuous pictures of Elise at her public school ballet performances. The film does not show Reed’s firing from the academy, but it should have. Jesse gets involved in one scene saving Erika, and is stabbed, but will survive the encounter, but the story explodes before it ends. A film that raises disturbing possibilities and does not answer all the questions that it raises.

 

This film should not be confused with the earlier film Obsession (1976, Columbia, dir. Brian de Palma), in which a man visiting Italy follows a girl who reminds him of a botched kidnapping rescue attempt.   

 

Another documentary film is figuring into a prosecution of a crime against a minor. Specifically, Michael Jackson’s trial opened with ABC’s Living with Michael Jackson: A Tonight Special (dir. Julie Shaw), with the interview conducted by Martin Bashir, who is apparently the first witness for the prosecution at Michael Jackson’s trial. Jackson gets quoted as saying that there is nothing more loving than sharing your bed, and that kids are like little Gods; and people will make jokes about Bubbles. But Michael Jackson did a big military parody in the 1993 Super Bowl halftime, the first year of the debate about gays in the military. The fact that Neverland is the name of Jackson’s playground-for-kids ranch and appear in the name of an important movie about kids in 2004 is a certain paradox.

 

Paramount has released the DVD/TV film: Man in the Mirror: The Michael Jackson Story (2005, Paramount, Allan Moyle, wr. Claudia Salter, 87 min, PG-13), with Flex Alexander playing Michael Jackson, and another of other celebrities acted in the case (Cedric De Souza as Martin Bashir, Lynne Comack as Liz Taylor, Samantha Banton as Diana Ross). The film quickly traces Michael Jackson’s biography: his family’s connections to Jehovah’s Witnesses, his vitiligo, the rise of his career (“Thriller”), his setting up of Neverland.  The ranch is shown as having model trains and being like a pretend-kingdom. He gets in trouble in 1993, and settles out of court. (Michael would report this humiliation then, about police photographing his buttoks.) He marries twice and father kids, but this does not seem do counter his eccentricities (he dangles a baby from a Berlin hotel balcony in 2002). Interviews (with some leading behavior by police) are shown with the boys with whom Jackson apparently had improper relations; they come across as articulate young adolescents and not a children, so the impression is left that Jackson indeed has sexual interest in them. We are left wondering if Jackson becomes a target merely because of innocuous eccentricities, or if his thinking and motives are really pathological.  

 

The Michael Jackson story does provide a counter example to the notion that men (particularly older men) without families and children present a greater risk for hidden involvement in pedophilia or sexual predation. I suspect police departments generally do not accept such a notion.

 

In the trial, the judge is allowing testimony from other accusers to show a “propensity” to become involved intimately with minors. This is allowed in child molestation trials in California and several other states. Again, “propensity” is a legal concept that was used to justify the military gay ban.

 

Michael Jackson was acquitted of all charges on June 13, 2005. Young actor Macaulay Calkin provided important testimony for the defense (about his visits when he was a boy, after starring in the Home Alone movies).

 

Me and You and Everyone We Know (2005, IFC/FilmFour, dir. Miranda July, 95 min, R) suggests, with its title, a marketing scheme to get leads for a life insurance agent. It’s not, even though the title makes a mathematical point. Actually, the phrase is uttered by one of the kids, 14 year old Peter (Miles Thompson, who rather resembles Shia La Beouf in his acting style), of mixed ancestry, as he looks at a dot matrix printout. Peter is sharp on the computer, but even more so is his 7-year old brother Robby (Brandon Ratcliff). The engage in innocent (from their point of view) but pornographic chatroom dialogue (about exchanging poop, for example) with possibly predatory strangers. The movie, however, is a web of people reacting to one another in a daisy chain, starting first with the separated single-parent shoe salesman dad Richard (John Hawkes), who will meet Christine (Miranda July). Richard is hurting as a dad, and will do weird stuff, like setting his hand on fire, to impress his kids. There are the two 18-year-old women Heather and Rebecca (Natasha Slayton and Najarra Townsend) who, besides suggesting some trivial lesbian attachment between them, will tease the boys, especially Peter, with whom they do some sexual experimentation. The story could have explored the possibility of their innocuous criminality, but it never goes there. It wanders instead among the various characters almost like a John Sayles movie, taking us, for example, to the future dowry of 10-year-old Sylvie (Carlie Westerman), laid out as a set of knick knocks on a “kid like” bedroom floor. The film can make art out of bathroom linens as much as Etruscan drawings.  

 

Ma mere (“My Mother”) (2004, TLA Releasing/Gemini/Amour Fou, dir. Christophe Honore, based on the novel by Georges Bataille, 110 min, NC-17, in French). I started French in 9th grade and this phrase was one of the first that I learned. This film has gotten somewhat of a reputation as a nasty experiment with momism and suggestions of incest.  The film starts quietly, but soon Helene (Isabelle Huppert) loses her husband and soon launches a raunchy celebrative bisexual lifestyle with her friend Rea (Joanna Preiss), apparently on the south Portuguese coast. And she draws her pubescent teenage son Pierre (played with charisma by 21-year-old Louis Garrel) into the random adventures. Pierre is quite captivated and disturbed, as his emerging hormones and sex drive preoccupy his life. At one point, he golden-showers some porno magazines, as the movie moves into NC-17 territory. Later, one of Helene’s friends strips him in a shopping mall and engages in energetic sex. Later Pierre will resist her rubbing his smooth chest because it’s “dirty.” The plot gathers meaning and momentum, however, with focus on another young male Loulou (Jean Baptiste Montagut) who insults Isabelle in front of Pierre, who has recently overheard other friends depict gay S&M. Soon there is a ceremony to punish Loulou, involving, besides whipping, cutting in the abdominal area. This will create a reenactment of Caesarian birth, and lead to a find tragic encounter between Pierre and his mother. Of course, one contemplates the fact that all of this sexual energy usually gets sublimated in more conventional power struggles among males, such as with sports, money, business, and families. Pierre is just too young for all this. But at one point he asks, in a prayer or soliloquy, what it would be like to be the son of Mary, and that muses that he was born to be a “god.” If so, he would transcend mundane concerns about reproduction and procreation, and he can’t. Another interesting observation about the movie technically (which seemed to be shot in HD): the beginning and end titles are very simple, black on white, with no music.

 

Crutch (2004, Ardustry/Illuminaire, dir. Rob Moretti, 88 min, R) is a handsome looking coming of age film (filmed in full anamophic wide screen), autobiographical and based on the teenage experiences of the director, whose character is David (Eben Gordon). Kenny (played by Rob Moretti himself) is a handsome and somewhat virile late-twenties drama teacher, and apparently his acting lessons are run (privately) outside of (high) school, which is never shown. It is not clear how David or his family pays for them. The place and circumstances are kept ambiguous, as David deals with his alcoholic Mother, for whom he must intervene when he finds her injured and unconscious. David also writes very personal material in his school journal, which Kenny finds at one point and reads. The material may show homosexual interest, but apparently places it in a larger aesthetic and artistic context of what David wants to do when he grows up. Kenny then slowly builds up an affair with him (starting with a single impulsive kiss, for which the teacher apologizes as “crossing the line”). David is passionate about his acting and eventually gets professional movie parts. As the relationship becomes intimate (the film shows this with a moderate amount of explicitness and language), Kenny becomes jealous and draws David into a world of cocaine and drugs. There are no legal consequences in the film, and the epilogue relates eventual releases for all major characters from their substance abuse addictions, with happy endings (including marriages and children born) for some siblings). In the post-film credits we finally learn that David was in high school, and the deleted scenes on the DVD give some revealing details about Kenny. The film seems to take place in New Jersey, where the age of consent is 16 (it is 17 in New York).

 

Too Young to Be a Dad (2002, Lifetime/LGF/Jaffe-Braunstein, dir. Eva Gardos, 100 min, sug PG-13) fully draws out the consequences of SIBM (as we called it in the Army – “sexual intercourse before marriage”) for teens. In fact, a high school freshman Matt Freeman (Paul Dano) has won the highest honor in his school’s history and now just turned 15. He is handsome, articulate, and kind. He is a virgin, until Francesca (Katie Stuart), whom he is tutoring algebra, tempts him. The scene is tasteful and implied, but soon the kids are doing a pregnancy test (Matt shoplifts a kit from a drug store and doesn’t get caught), and she is throwing up in the mornings. The families arrange to give up the baby, OK, but Matt feels compelled to work in a Pizza place to help work off the medical bills. Matt and Francesca also have to go to an alternative high school. Finally, Matt insists on seeing the baby, and the family revokes the adoption. Matt takes the daughter home to be raised by him and his parents as grandparents. It’s rather interesting to see a 15-year-old taking to biological fatherhood as a personal value as important as books and career and personal accomplishment in a more usual individualistic sense. The sadness of the story reminds me of Everwood, where prodigy Ephram Brown loses his chance at a piano scholarship after getting a college girl pregnant and he father tries to cover it up. It also happens on 7th Heaven with the teenage character Martin Brewer.

 

For a Lost Soldier (“Vor een verloren Soldaat”, 1992, Strand, dir. Roeland Koerbusch, novel by Rudi von Dantzig, 93 min, NC-17) tells in retrospect the story of Joeren Smit (Maarten Smit, at 12, Jeoren Krabbe, adult) and a Canadian Soldier Walt Cook (Andrew Kelley) after the Netherlands is liberated from the Nazis. The film (from The Netherlands) shows their friendship with more candor than would probably be acceptable in American film, with shower and sleep scenes.  Early in the friendship, Walt says to the boy, “you’re my kind of guy.” Perhaps this behavior seemed more innocent in a war zone; in contemporary America the soldier would be regarded (and probably prosecuted) as a pedophile. The movie shows quite spectacular scenes of the dikes and low country and marshy shores. As an adult, Joeren will become a ballet instructor, and will reflect back on the experience, through black and white photos (including the dog tags) for creative energy.

 

Pretty Boy (“Smukke dreng”, 1993, Picturehouse/Zentropa, dir. Carsten Sonder, 86 min, R, Denmark) has been watered down for its DVD release, perhaps to make it legal. Tweem Nick (played by a charismatic Christian Tafdrup, 15 at the time of filming) rescues an astronomer professor (Stig Hoffmeyer) after a restroom mugging and finds his wallet. A runaway he tries to crash but is thrown out when the professor’s girl friend comes home. He gets in with a commune of petty thieves run by a pimp/novelty store owner (Rami Nathan Sverdlin), and it’s “hard out here for a pimp” all right. A cross dresser, he is straight (most cross dressers are), but his urchins rob homosexuals having sex in Copenhagen parks. Nick has to resist crime and rises above it, forcing Max’s atonement at the end. Most of the “sex” in the film is straight (with Rene, Benedicte W. Madsen), and it is kept a bit discrete in the international release. Nick would do very well in life with a decent education. Perhaps he should be on an Apprentice “Street Smarts” team.

 

Frisk (1999, Strand, dir. Todd Verow, novel by Dennis Cooper, 87 min, NC-17). This film might seem like a gay “Silence of the Lambs.” You almost expect to see Anthony Hopkins at any moment. It brings up memories of Gacey and particularly Jeff Dahmer as it tells the story in first person, through letters, of a serial killer, so moves from sadomasochism into murder. I won’t go into the lurid details of his fantasies in a public space here, but he lures a number of victims, including at least two minors. Eventually he is cahoots with a sadistic heterosexual couple. There is one scene where a knife is used in a way that recalls “Deliverance”; another where a T-shirt is torn to shreds, but the worst is always just out of view. Most of the story takes place in San Francisco. The film starts on a European train where Julian (Jaie Laplante) is telling his younger brother Kevin (Raoul O’Connell) about the letters, written by Dennis (Michael Gunther). I don’t know from the evidence whether the author views himself as the protagonist; that would be a disturbing observation in itself, unless the author had some Socratic reason for the story. Perhaps he does not want to libel any other identifiable person. The DVD is full screen, and the most gruesome parts are chopped into black-and-white slivers. The younger brother could face great peril if he gets curious at the end, and he might not survive the encounter. The DVD has a two-minute abstract video Nob Hill (2002) from the same director (with some hazy baths shots as well as San Francisco scenery). 

This film (that is, the feature "Frisk"), for some people, obviously pushes the limit of what is appropriate in commercial films. In 1988, in Richmond VA, police actually broke up a conspiracy to make a live "snuff" movie.

 

It’s interesting to note that Night of the Iguana (1964, MGM, dir. John Houston, play by Tennessee Williams, bw. 125 min) has never been available as a DVD. Richard Burton plays a defrocked pastor Lawrence Shannon leading a tour in Mexico, when teenager Charlotte Goodall (Sue Lyon) tries to seduce him. Ava Gardner is Maxine. I remember the scene of him swimming, his chest obviously shaved. Latest infO: The DVD is due to be released on May 2, 2006 by Sony Pictures/MGM/UA.

 

Turner Classic Movies, however, has shown it recently.  The iguana appears frequently, a delicious abstract symbol in a black-and-white movie in a tropical paradise. Shannon acknowledges his past sins and weaknesses as a priest, and even talks about “statutory rape.” (The movie presents twenty as the age of consent.) He resists Charlotte, both in a famous shirtless scene in the water and later when they are walking on cut glass. Appearances hurt him, however. He is threatened with arrest when they get back to the states, and he fears being fired from his job as the tour guide, after which he would be destitute. (He sweet talks his boss over the phone in one scene.) Judith Fellowes (Grayson Hall) constantly taunts him about his apparent inappropriate interests, while Maxine Faulk (Ava Gardner) teases him, shaving his face in one scene. In the rather famous beach scene, Richard Burton’s chest appears shaved, but in the other scenes where he has an open-necked shirt, he appears hairy, a visual oddity that seems like carelessness, or maybe again this is all about appearances. At the end, he is tied up and taunted, while the beach boys play with Charlotte. The ending echoes the catastrophic ending of “Suddenly, Last Summer.” The DVD (distributed by Warner Brothers rather than Sony) touts the risk that John Houston took in isolating the actors in a remote area of Mexico to make this film. "One man, three women; there has never been a night like the Night of the Iguana." The tropical iguana reptile looks great in black and white.  

 

Hard Candy (2006, Lions Gate/IcePack Pictures, dir. David Slade, wr. Brian Nelson, 103 min, R) starts with the same concept as NBC Dateline’s “To Catch a Predator” series. A 32-year-old photographer David Kohlver (Patrick Wilson) converses with whom he believes to be a 14 year old girl, Judy Tokuda (Ellen Page; Sandra Oh also costars as a susupicious neighbor). The CinemaScope screen fills with color chat log and icons. (I think that the extra wide screen here interferes with the close-ups that dominate the movie). Is she really 14? Is she a cop? (as with the Homeland Security official who got nailed recently). A “Perverted Justice” volunteer (as on Dateline)? They meet at a bistro and go back to his house. “Never drink anything you didn’t mix!” How true. The trouble is, he does, and like one of those tawdry characters on a soap opera (like “Days of our Lives”) he falls. Soon he is tied up. She lectures him on the immorality of his rationalizations. He claims that some of his contacts are mature for their age and seem like adults. Nevertheless, a 14-year old girl is not ready to do “what a woman does.” Now she is an honor student, and maybe pre-med (and maybe not a kid after all.) Let me add first that David is not the ideal male; he is getting bald on the calyx already, and he doesn’t have enough hair on his arms. He’s just average. She locates his safe, decodes the combination, and finds a cache of CD's probably containing child pornography, one day to be found by the police. Well, pretty soon she will impose the ultimate desecration of his manhood. You hear it, but don’t see it, thankfully.  (I once saw a rogue story like this on the Web.) The movie, which seems to be shot in HDV, ventures into Stephen King “Misery” territory before its climax, where he voluntarily faces the noose. Yup, the death penalty. Now, I have worked out a script where a man gets sent to prison when a teen’s father railroads a false conviction, and where the man dies in prison of his medical problems (during surgery) but where the teen redeems him by playing his music in public. That seems kind and gentle in comparison to this, even if the outline and concept of my story is similar. Lions Gate Pictures debuted its new corporate trademark, with a bit of Metropolis machine-works, in this film. This movie was shown in Washington DC’s 2006 international film festival. 

 

The Night Listener (2006, Miramax/IFC/Hart-Sharp, dir. Patrick Stettner, 82 min, R) again has an aging and stately Robin Williams, this time as a night talk radio host Gabriel Noone. He is gay and has broken up with lover Jess (Bobby Cannavale). He receives a book manuscript from a 14-year-old boy Pete Logan (Rory Culkin) who is supposedly dying of AIDS that may have been inflicted by sexual abuse by parents. Gabriel embarks on an odyssey to Wisconsin (from New York) to find out, with ambiguous results.

 

Whole New Thing (2006, ThinkFilm/Picture This/Acuity, dir. Ammon Buchbinder, 92 min, Canada, no rating yet, would be R) has a 13-year old writer Emerson (Aaron Webber), home schooled in Nova Scotia by new age parents, going off to middle school and meeting a well meaning middle aged gay English teacher  (Daniel Maclvor), who frequents rest stops for sex. Emerson seeks friendship with the teacher, but maintains he is not gay. Nevertheless, he seems to be setting a trap of temptation that will test the characters of all of the players. This is a film more about desire than action, and that makes it even more controversial. The opening take is quite funny, as Emerson looks at his sheets when he wakes up, and his mother engages in a conversation about the first wet dream. There is a similar visual effect with the Ephram character (Gregory Smith) in the Pilot episode of "Everwood."

 

The History Boys (2006, Fox Searchlight/Free Range, dir. Nicholas Hytner, play by Alan Bennett, R, 109 min, UK) is, all things considered, an uplifting British comedy about a boys prep “grammar school” in the 1980s. The boys aspire to get into Oxford, and their older teacher Hector (Richard Griffiths) is joined by a younger instructor Irwin (Stephen Campbell Moore), sometimes giving seminar-type history and literature classes together. A couple of pranks where Hector shows some poor judgment leads accusations of “groping” – something that could lead to a criminal charge in other circumstances (at least in the U.S.) Hector’s wife (Frances de la Tour) pretty much knows that her husband is gay and pretty much accepts it. The headmaster (Clive Merrison) has to weigh the politics carefully and asks Hector to retire early. Here, there are opportunities for comedy with the boys, all of whom are likeable. The most visible are probably Lockwood (Andrew Knott), piano player Scripps (Jamie Parker), the virile looking Dakin (Dominic Cooper), and the charismatic Posner (Samuel Barnett), who at one point confides to Irwin that he is gay. But Dakin, who brags about being a womanizer, will test Irwin himself, pretending to try to seduce him in one scene alone – again, a dangerous idea that makes American school administrators cringe. There is a lot of talk about the meaning of history – as a sequence of happenstances, and the suggestion that individuals can impact on it. There are curious references to the subjunctive mood, which is more explicitly conjugated in languages other than English (especially French). The boys have to write their entrance exams, with essays about Hitler and other questionable figures. There is a curious discussion of the Holocaust, and especially of Auschwitz, and the way it is presented in history texts and in literature in general – as if it were inappropriate to make it a spectacle as a backdrop for something else. (In a novel manuscript that I have not yet made public in anyway, the opening chapter starts with the protagonist wandering through the museum at Birkenau, near Cracow, when he will meet another major character for the first time in his life. Now, I wonder!)  Finally, there is a denouement, and a funeral, and then a prospective in black and white as to what becomes of the boys. Posner becomes a teacher, and claims that he is a good teacher because, being a gay male (around other attractive teen boys), he always has to be very wary of himself. Again, an odd but telling revelation.

 

The film has almost no visually explicit intimacy and little bad language, and the “R” rating comes almost entirely because of the very sensitive subject matter about homosexuality and feelings of attraction (largely latent) in late adolescent men, around gay teachers.  Although the fat older teacher is shown as “interested” in mature teenage boys and young adult men and probably unable to retain interest in his marriage to someone his own age and comparable in physical appeal, the film is not morally judgmental. That alone is noteworthy because in our US culture today (given the NBC Dateline “To Catch a Predator” series and the enormous numbers of busts of teachers since about 2004), his behavior, combined with inclinations, could have gotten him in jail and on a sex offender registry. The upper middle class British students do not react in a judgmental way because they do not feel that their “masculinity” is personally threatened, the way lower-income men would feel. They are a bit like the Congressional pages emailed by defrocked Florida Republican Congressman Mark Foley; generally teenagers like this do not respond to inappropriate advances and often turn in superiors who try to abuse them. In this country, in the past two years, we have developed a witch-hunt mentality on this issue. This paradigm is quite remarkable. And the play (and film) is genuinely funny.

 

Notes on a Scandal (2006, Fox Searchlight/DNA/Scott Rudin, dir. Richard Eyre, novel by Zoe Heller: What Was She Thinking?: Notes on a Scandal, 93 min, UK, R). This is the second British film in a month from Fox to deal with the problem of older teachers having inappropriate interactions with minor students (as was a similar film from Canada, above, from PictureThis!) and the subject matter seems to be more acceptable in the UK or Canada than in the U.S. (The Mark Foley scandal and NBC Dateline “To Catch a Predator” series seems coincidental.)  Age of consent is also generally lower in many other countries. And this film deals with older female teacher and teenage male relationships, something that has been reported (with arrests and convictions) in the past few years much more often than many people would expect. But the film is more than that; it is a plot-driven triangle, or quadrangle, depending on how you look at things. Pottery teacher Sheba Hart (Cate Blanchett) starts “tutoring” a working class fifteen year old boy with artistic dreams, freckly Steven Connolly (Andrew Simpson) who does speak a rather exaggerated Cockney. (The UK-born actor apparently was 17 when this film was shot.) The boy becomes aggressive, and soon older spinster history teacher Barbara Covett (Judi Dench) accidentally witnesses a physical encounter between the two at a party. Now Barbara is a bit of an empress: she calls her students “proles” (I wanted to call my unpublished 1969 novel “The Proles” and a little of it wound up in my first book),  and he considers teaching, even in high school, as “crowd control.” She “blackmails” Sheba (somewhat younger) into an intimate “friendship” with her (or at least "moves in" on her, eventually to be called a vampire). (The words lesbian or homosexual never occur in the script.)  But Sheba is unable to stop seeing Steven, and eventually it gets out. Sheba has an older husband, a literature professor Richard (Bill Nighy), who ponders the difference between writing and teaching (and the “publish or perish” problem, perhaps). She also has kids, including (besides a rebellious teen girl) one with Down syndrome, a kid who occupies a lot of attention in the film. The visually apparent disability reminds one of the special education issue in this country, but that is never shown in the film. But her attention to the needs of her own son (as does her own aging and that of her husband) sets up her longing for an attractive (“normal”), energetic younger man, and when Richard finds out about the affair, he lectures her on “wanting younger people” as an existential problem that we all have to deal with. She, almost cornered, turns to Barbara for a place to stay, but then the British police arrive to take her away. She gets ten months in prison, but not before find, in Barbara’s apartment, a diary and scrapbook of her relationships with “younger” though adult women. (What if Barbara put the diary onto an Internet blog?) Barbara’s own life is collapsing otherwise, as her “adult” companion, a cat, is dying of feline leukemia (the cat vomits in one scene, and Barbara will in another) and has to be put down. At the end, Barbara will go on. The film has a typical score by Philip Glass, which tends to encapsulate the film and make it seem smaller, though fast-paced.   

 

A Map of the World (1999, USA / Kennedy Marshall, dir. Scott Elliott, novel by Jane Hamilton (1994); 125 min, R). Sigourney Weaver, in quite a departure from Ripley, plays an elementary school nurse Alice Goodwin, who is falsely accused of abusing kids at the elementary school (reckless endangerment and abuse). She and her husband Howard (David Strathaim) have bought a small farm in a town in Racine County, Wisconsin (the film was really made in Toronto), and one day when she is babysitting a neighbor’s child, the little girl wanders off and drowns in the farm pond. The townspeople turn on her, and in the social climate rumors and spurious accusations come easily. The scene where the sheriff comes to her house with the warrant is harrowing, and a lot of attention is given to her time in orange jumpers in jail (waiting for bail), dealing with hard-edged female inmates. At the trial, she admits that she hurts everyone, through neglect, a kind of twist in the idea of self-incrimination. Also, she did strike one recalcitrant child in a temper temptation, which she (Weaver) calls an "accident" in the featurette on the DVD.

 

Kiss of the Spider Woman (1985, Strand, dir. Hector Babenco, novel by Manuel Puig) with William Hurt and Raul Julia as inmates in an Argentine prison, with the Hurt character Molina having been convicted by a real world sex sting involving a “minor”. The Broadway play came out in 1992, which see.

 

M (1931, Janus / Criterion / Paramount Classics, dir. Fritz Lang, 109 min) is a restored classic film from Germany about a serial pedophile killer Hans Beckert (Peter Lorre). An anonymous letter causes most male members of the Berlin underworld to come under suspicion and there is a smoke-filled-room scene where the men talk about their “reputations” almost as if the smearing had happened on Myspace. In the final scene, Beckert begs for mercy from the people and talks about his inner demons, and breaks down. The scene reminds one of media reports of the tearful behavior of Internet sting subject David Kaye at his sentencing at a federal trial in Alexandria in 2006. The film was made before the Nazi takeover, but the Nazis used the film as part of their propaganda against sexual deviance. The film has no music, and many long silent stretches, and many images of striking simplicity, such as children playing “It” in the opening, or the pedophile’s trying to pick a lock.

 

Towelhead (“Nothing Is Private”, 2008, Warner Independent Pictures, dir. Alan Ball, novel by Alicia Erian, 120 min) A young girl (Summer Bishil) comes home to Houston to live with her divorced Lebanese father (Peter MacDissi) and gets into complicated sexual situations with a creepy 40 year old next door (Aaron Eckhart) a an African American teenager. Some of the norms of patriarchal society (virginity) are developed but whipped up to made to look like a house of cards. The police come, but that’s only a little of the story.  Blogger discussion. 

 

Schoolboy Crush (2008, TLA / Tornado, dir. Kotaro Terauchi, 88 min, prob NC-17, Japan) In a boys prep school, a science teacher has already slept with a new student when the student was a prostitute. The story expands with “Gossip Girl” like intrigue and leads to tragedy, and redemption. Blogger.

 

America (2009, Sony Pictures Classics / Lifetime, dir. Yves Simoneau, wr. Rosie O’Donnell, book by E. R. Frank). O’Donnell plays a therapist who helps a foster teen in a state home deal with past sexual abuse by a male relative, resulting in his setting fire to the relative’s house. The film also says a lot about the foster care system (set in Michigan). Blogger.

 

Extra Remark: This group of films (at least some of them, especially the first three) does go into areas that make many people uncomfortable. I daresay, as an artist and writer, that some people would feel that even writing and talking about them risks indirect self-incrimination, by the perverse logic that we call “rebuttable presumption” (which we learned about with gays in the military). In fact, in at least two of the films discussed above it seems as though people are punished not just for the crimes of others but for crimes that did not occur at all in fact (just “thoughtcrimes”); maybe they are supposed to be “saviors.” This kind of movie review also brings to mind all the issues with the Child Online Protection Act (COPA) and the current litigation. Also, since these films often imply that minors are having sex with adults, one encounters the legal questions about child pornography. As best I can tell from the literature, a filmmaker goes over the legal line only if he or she actually shows explicit sex acts involving minors. But I’m not a lawyer, and this is still a troubling question.

 

Desson Thomson discusses movies that deal with adult-minor relations in his Jan. 16, 2005 essay “A Crime Ready for its Close-up: Cinema Tackles Pedophilia, in Equal Amounts of Shadow and Light; Bringing the Individual Faces of Pedophilia into Focus”, p. N1.  This article appeared the same weekend that Bad Education opened (at only one theater in the Duport Circle area) in Washington. In addition to that film and The Woodsman, Thomson discusses American Beauty, The Prince of Tides, L.I.E. (“Long Island Expressway”), Lolita (1962 MGM Stanley Kubrick; 1997 Wordlwide), Tadpole, and Capturing the Friedmans, which Netflix now offers with a bonus DVD. I’ll try to have reviews of the last two films here soon.

 

In a Season 4 episode of Smallville (“Pariah”) the script points out that Lana, who has been having an “affair” (well, maybe) with the high school football coach is over 18. This could have been for legal reasons, although since nothing is ever “shown” it probably is not necessary. It is logical that Lana would turn 18 during her senior year of high school. Clark is still referred to as having the legal age of 17 (but it is unknown).

 

There is a documentary After School under development, directed and written by Chris Barrett and Manuel De Seixas Correa. It is “a study of the growing and disturbing trend of teachers having sex with their students.” The website is http://www.afterschooldoc.com/   Owen Lafave, husband of a teacher now charged of indecency with a student in Florida, may be interviewed in the film; he was interviewed on CNN “Larry King Live” on Jan 25, 2005 and repeated on Feb. 5, 2005. He indicated his personal opinion that a teacher must view students under his or her care as if they were the teacher’s own children.

 

Here are a few terms: Ephebophilia – Primary or exclusive sexual attraction to post-pubescent adolescents (either homosexual or heterosexual) or even young adults in an older person. Hebephilia is a similar term that stresses attraction to slightly younger post-pubescent adolescents. Pederasty applies this concept to male adolescents. When referring to heterosexual interest in adolescent girls, the colloquial term is Lolita syndrome. Pedophilia (or pedosexuality) refers to sexual attraction to pre-pubescent children (even infantophilia).  None of these become legal issues until the older person actually acts upon his or her fantasies (has sex with an underage [with respect to legal age of consent] person or attempts or solicits such sexual activity). However, a convicted sex offender may be confined for treatment, or restricted in living space or in other behaviors like reading materials or computer access for years after finishing a sentence or for life. Society has a certain moral “ick factor” revulsion even to the idea of ephebophilic fantasy, as it seems to suggest a failure in psychosexual maturation or socialization. However, many sexual offenders (committing or attempting acts with minors) are “normally” married heterosexuals with children. Here are a couple of web references: http://www.answers.com/topic/ephebophilia  http://pedophilia.biography.ms/

There is also http://www.ephebophilia.com/  which seems to have a sharp edge to it.

 

Related reviews: L.I.E.;   Edge of 17; Issues 101   Happiness;  Storytelling; Sleepers   The Deep End American Beauty  The United States of Leland; another note about The Tin Drum on this file ; A Home at the End of the World   Finding Neverland  Lilith  The Pledge  Hard   A Streetcar Named Desire   The Weather Man;  Moved to another file:  Bad Education and Mysterious Skin   play The Velvet Sky    Suddenly, Last Summer Jefferson in Paris  Television series: NBC Dateline “To Catch a Predator (8 episodes, and “Secrets & Lies”)  The Substitute    Presumed Innocent   Little Children  Running with Scissors  The Consequence    Swoon   Deliver Us from Evil   The Conformist  The Good Mother  Manhattan   The Jane Austen Book Club  Eastern Promises   Three Summers   Gone, Baby Gone   Margot at the Wedding   Herzhaft   A Teacher’s Crime, Doubt    Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired   An Education  Beautiful Girls

 

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