Still recovering from their retrospective at MOMA last year, darlings of the independent world, Killer Films unleashes their interpretation of “The Notorious Bettie Page”. The movie focuses on the off camera life of the legendary pin up girl that a lot of Bettie Page admirers would be surprised by.
Throughout the movie we are led to believe that Bettie Page was a girl who had no hang-ups about revealing her naked beauty but did so while holding onto her deep religious beliefs. And yet at times this perspective seems to be stretching a little thin. Are we really supposed to think that Bettie Page was that naďve about what she was doing during her photo shoots? The film depicts her as an innocent girl who happens to dress up in some funny costumes, but this can’t be all true can it? Doesn’t a girl know what she’s getting her self into when she laces up the leather and cracks the riding crop along her bound costars?
Despite that Gretchen Mol seems too scrawny to really be the Amazonian pin up Queens high heeled shoes, her facial expressions do their best to fill out her portrayal of Bettie. Thankfully talented and beautiful people like Lili Taylor bring some much-needed life to the screen.
To its credit, the costume designs are exceptional and fans will appreciate the care the filmmakers take to recreate the scenes and reveal living photograph versions of some of Bettie Page’s infamous work. At times it feels as if the Bettie Page suffers from art schoolitis, with its odd timed mixture of black and white and color filled scenes. While I admire the films color look where sometimes it appears as if the footage were shot using camera gear from the fifties, the change to color film stock often seems forced without illustrating any particular point.
“The Notorious Bettie Page” raises more questions than it answers, and displays the events of the Bettie Page story through the filmmakers own skewed political view. And even though she’s a pop culture icon of sensuality, we never get a feel for Betties own sexual identity. As a whole it’s not a bad biopic, and the stockings and fetish wear are nice to see in a regular theater not in the bad part of town.
As the credits rolled, and the houselights resumed I was reassured that I can always rely on San Francisco’s freaky people for fun and adventure, as I caught a glimpse of some inspired fans removing ropes from a sub at play. Reaffirming that regardless of the life Bettie Page led, her admirers celebrate her every chance they can.
Dusting off my old film camera, for Movie Magazine this is Purple.
© 2006 - Purple - Air Date: 4/19/06
The Notorious Bettie Page
USA - 2005