Notes from a small island
A weblog by Jonathan Ali

Friday, May 02, 2003  

It probably seemed like a good idea at the time: a movie about a straight Jewish woman living in Manhattan, who decides one day that oranges aren't the only fruit and hops into bed with another woman.

Unfortunately, Kissing Jessica Stein, which I saw recently, is a film that's as confused as its title character. It's a bit of a cross between Chasing Amy in reverse and a gay (and Jewish) My Big Fat Greek Wedding, but never really gets going. It's as if someone said, "Jews. Soho. Lesbians. What could go wrong?" Well, nothing really goes wrong, but then nothing really goes right, either. The film just ambles along, smug and self-content, eventually petering out predictably. All the stereotypes are hauled out, right down to the overbearing Jewish mother ("At least tell me you're Jewish." "No, but I have been to a seder once." Ba da boom.).

Another, much better film I saw recently was Secretary, starring James Spader and Maggie Gyllenhaal, who give the old boss-and-secretary-having-an-affair chestnut a sado-masochistic polish. Much of the film is quite explicit - and quite funny, in a black, rather perverse way - and if you don't take it too seriously you're not likely to get offended. I wasn't, at any rate. It certainly isn't as controversial a film as David Cronenberg's Crash, based on the JG Ballard novel, and which James Spader starred in (with Holly Hunter, I believe) a few years ago.

Though I haven't seen Crash I remember it (and the sublime Martin Amis review) well: I was in London at the time, and the British Film Classification Board was making a fuss about it, threatening to edit it, I think, afraid that people would see it and then rush off and get into automobile accidents and derive sexual pleasure from them, or something. In the end common sense reigned and the film was passed uncut.

Common sense is often in short supply around these parts, however. I recall our own Film Censors Board (note: film censors, not classifiers) which banned Pulp Fiction because it contained, and I misquote, "a simulated act of sodomy." It also banned The Last Temptation of Christ, not because Martin Scorsese dared to suggest Jesus might have gotten his groove on, but because some over-excited Christians protested that fact.

A father of a friend was on the Film Censors Board at the time. He told me no one on the Board really had a problem with passing the film - I don't think many of the members liked it, but of course that wasn't the point - with the exception of the member from the Inter-Religious Organisation. (The IRO, I believe, has a permanent spot on the Board reserved for one its members.) Then the protests started, and the film was banned.

I know the IRO is meant to be an example of the different faiths in this country working in ecumenical harmony and all that good stuff, but I find them a bloody waste of time. Their answer to every problem in this country is prayer. And if that doesn't work, well, pray some more. (But to whom? Jesus, Allah, Mary, Ogun or Vishnu?) And I'm willing to bet the IRO isn't as chummy as they would have us believe. At times cracks in their veneer have shown, and probably will again, if the renaming of the Trinity Cross takes place. Maybe then they'll implode and finally go away.

Until then, thank goodness for cable.

posted by Jonathan | 1:51 PM 0 comments


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