Five years after the controversial American Psycho, writer/director Mary Harron takes a different approach to sexual violence in The Notorious Bettie Page. Gretchen Mol earned kudos for her portrayal of the titular 50s' fetish model, but the storytelling was "sluggish" and superficial. Consequently, the film hardly made a dent at the box office although it may benefit from 'curiosity value' on DVD.
Harron explains her fascination with Bettie Page in a short interview. Apparently it was Bettie's "inappropriate" air of "innocence" in posing for raunchy photos that captured her imagination. But as she was writing the script, the visual concept seems to have taken a hold most strongly (which doesn't surprise). Harron makes reference to the early black-and-white films of Samuel Fuller and wanting a "quasi-documentary" feel to the action.
At just over three-minutes, the interview with Gretchen Mol doesn't add much. In fact, it's just enough time to reiterate the "paradox" of innocence vs. sexual liberation. Meanwhile Lili Taylor and Chris Bauer only get around to a brief description of their characters (ie, photo agents Mr & Mrs Klaw).
Revealing All (And Nothing)
Harron and Mol have more time to ruminate on the subtext in a commentary for the film. For most of that time, however, they are still busy trying to understand the contradictions in Bettie's nature, which frankly, is something they should have done before making the film! Mol explains that Bettie seemed to create "a protective circle around herself" so that no-one ever really understood her. She adds that she took her courage from Bettie in the many nude scenes, feeling that she could hide behind the character. Amusingly, Harron did have to call on a body double at one point - but just to catch a shot of Bettie's feet...
Filling out the extras menu is a vintage reel of the real Bettie Page stripping off. It is entirely without sound, which in our humble opinion, just makes the whole viewing experience more creepy. It's like this DVD as a whole: shockingly bare.
The Notorious Bettie Page DVD is released on Monday 19th March 2007.