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This month's Filmreel addresses, once more, a rather subjective concept. It took me some time to 'sell the theme' to our very open-minded editor - and a bit longer to our illustrious guest writer, the author and actress Jude Calvert-Toulmin. She's an irreverent, intelligent lady, with very strong views. My intention by inviting her to contribute with a piece was to create the required counterpoint to my own article and bring in a perspective that would be, above all, wonderfully feminine. Whilst I tried to make the angle of my approach to this considerably vague notion of 'entitlement' as clear as I could, the very nature of it prompted immediate personal views. This, in itself, is very interesting as it may coincidentally be what truly informs the core tendency this article exposes: the need to set boundaries or parameters for the expression of others... There is a trend that only surfaces once in a while. It's widely unacknowledged and seems to serve a rather baffling need for justification in art. And this symptom is never more acute then when the art form in question is film. After all, film speaks to the viewer on many levels and its invitation for complicity leads most of us to 'take it quite personally'. Yet, as I've been observing for a long time, the arena where this concerted exercise unfolds more strikingly is the critical realm. Be it in the printed press or through dedicated online platforms, individuals often voice their varied opinions in unison if the work in question dares to go into certain areas of the human experience. Here is some context to further clarify this tendency. 27th July 2001 was the UK release date of Intimacy, a feature film by the renowned stage and screen director Patrice Chéreau in which its lead actors engage in a succession of sexually-explicit scenes. Flanked by the deference its source material evokes in some quarters - the script was based on a couple of stories by Hanif Kureishi - the reviews at the time seemed to be constructed around a particular shot of actress Kerry Fox taking a penis into her mouth. 'How long can two people sustain a purely sexual relationship, before an interest in intimacy of a different kind arises?' was the key question posed by the film. Whether the critics addressed it or not, in no time the strangest justifications started being made. According to them, it was ok to go that far because the director and lead actor were gay, making the whole affair apparently less titillating and the potential exploitation of Fox not a question at all. There was also a dismissal of the film's daring approach on the grounds of it being very French, despite its English setting, cast and language. A fitting answer to that specific point was to come four years later, with one of the most explicit mainstream films ever made - 9 Songs by English director Michael Winterbottom. What the entire issue highlights is not so much the need to validate an artist's work, but the uncomfortable source of such views. We're all invited to be complicit with a medium which is voyeuristic by nature. Whether this trend to look for entitlement is a jerk reaction based on the viewer's own shortcomings or something dictated by culture, what it clearly exposes to me is their need to revert 'the responsibility' entirely to somebody else. Hence the condemnation of certain content or its opposite justification by means of asserting the entitlement of a filmmaker to address, explore and depict certain things. There's no way on earth that a film like Baise Moi, made before but released in the UK a year after Intimacy, is more entitled to depict rape scenes (with the inclusion of penetration shots) than Sam Peckinpah's 1971 Straw Dogs simply because it was made by two women. What matters is the integrity with which the work is made and its inherent cinematic quality. Baise Moi caused a stir with its heavy-handled feminist message but is essentially a bad film made by people lacking the slightest filmmaking ability. Straw Dogs, with all its accusations of misogyny, remains an incredible slice of cinema, put together by one of the boldest filmmakers of all time. What Baise Moi and Intimacy fall into is a category of films which were part of a wave led by greater filmmakers like Bruno Dumont (La Vie de Jésus, L'Humanité) and the awesome Leos Carax (Pola X), who included explicit depictions of sex to highlight character, psychological complexities and push boundaries in the transition from the 20th to the 21st Century. New ground continued to be broken into the past decade and, as it stands, audiences remain invited to add their gaze to daring depictions, albeit from the safety of their seats. Filmreel will revisit this theme by unveiling further examples of entitlement and delving deeper into feminist waters. Seasoned with the refreshing views of Juliette Binoche and other guest writers, we will be embracing controversy full on. From the backlash to Pauline Réage's real identity and the reactions to the 1975 film adaptation of her notorious novel; to the contribution, in the realm of conceptual music, of Anna Wildsmith, perhaps the greatest lyricist I know - and for whom I had the privilege to make the controversial short film/music video hybrid Victim. JOÃO PAULO SIMÕES IS A PORTUGUESE FILMMAKER LIVING AND WORKING INDEPENDENTLY IN SHEFFIELD. HIS WORKS INCLUDE MERCY, ANTLERS OF REASON AND AN ARRAY OF MUSIC VIDEOS AND DOCUMENTARIES. VISIT CAPTURAFILMES.BLOGSPOT.COM. )

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