Dirty Pictures

January 28, 2012 6 Min Read

Review by: Fusion3600

Plot: What’s it about?

This film tells the true story of a museum director, Dennis Barrie (James Woods) and the troubles that arise when he allows a controversial photo exhibit to run in his museum. The photos were taken by Robert Mapplethorpe and focus on some sexually explicit visuals, which of course enrages the local religious contingent. The local sheriff, Simon (Craig T. Nelson) wants to put Barrie behind bars for allowing these pictures to be shown, but has to prove his case before he can. The photos are very graphic, with sexual images such as very young nudes, extreme anal penetration, and the like. So Barrie knows the photos will upset some people of course, but he thinks the artistic force behind them is more important. As he battles to keep his rights to display whatever art he likes, he goes through a lot of pressure, even on his personal affairs. His marriage is in real jeopardy and it seems like everything is breaking down. Can Barrie last long enough to win the rights to artistic freedom, or will his life crumble around him first?

I wasn’t expecting much from this made for television movie, but since this was created for Showtime, the usual problems don’t surface. This means the film can use profanity and doesn’t seem as censored as some of the ones made for the normal cable channels. I also wasn’t looking forward to whole “art vs. censorship” debate the film seemed to hinge on, but again, the film managed to surprise me. This film is based on the real life events that took place because of the Mapplethorpe photos, which adds more impact and realism to whole scheme. I do think the film leans a little too much to one side, but never to extent of preaching or pushing ideas down the viewer’s throat. I do wish it was more down the middle, but I was pleased it never took bias too far in the end. This film will make you think about a few issues, especially if you’re interested in the realm of censorship and personal taste. This is one of the better made for television films I’ve seen of late, so I recommend it as a rental.

I was pleased to see James Woods on this cast, as I usually love his work and this performance proved to be no exception. Woods always give his roles his all and even here, in a direct to television film, he does just that. Woods’ performance is loaded with energy and passion and in a film like this, those are vital elements. His character needed to very outgoing and passionate and as always, Woods is more than able to deliver the goods. You can also see Woods in such movies as Diggstown, Any Given Sunday, Vampires, Videodrome, Against All Odds, and The Way We Were. The cast also includes David Huband (Frequency, Tommy Boy), Diana Scarwid (What Lies Beneath, The Cure), Leon Pownall (The Sleep Room, Dead Poet’s Society), and Craig T. Nelson (The Skulls, The Devil’s Advocate). The director of Dirty Pictures is Frank Pierson, who also helmed Citizen Cohn, The Neon Ceiling, Somebody Has To Shoot The Picture, and Truman.

Video: How does it look?

Dirty Pictures is presented in a full frame transfer, which retains the film’s intended aspect ratio. This was a made for television motion picture, so it doesn’t look as smooth as a normal feature film, but this transfer still looks pretty good to me. This looks much like it would have on television, but perhaps a little sharper for the trek onto the digital format. I did see some compression flaws at times, but no real issues. The colors seem natural and bold, black levels are well defined, and on the whole, this is a good looking visual presentation.

Audio: How does it sound?

This film isn’t one to select for dynamic audio, but the included stereo surround track is more than adequate. The film’s music comes through very well and adds a lot to the movie’s impact, which is always welcome. I didn’t notice much in terms of sound effects, but the rather basic ones present here sound good, so no complaints. I never had trouble with the dialogue either, the vocals emerge in crisp and clean form also. This disc also contains English captions and subtitles in Spanish & French.

Supplements: What are the extras?

This disc contains no bonus features.

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