The blogosphere has been mighty quiet on the academic front (probably due to the start of the academic year). I have fallen prey as well. Last night I went to the screening of Alan Ball’s new film Towelhead and I’d like to set the record straight. There is a lot of nonsense going on out in the web about this film. First off, I think Ball is probably the best writer out there for the acting medium. He did Six Feet Under, American Beauty, and probably lesser known Five Women Wearing the Same Dress. In general, he writes about profoundly touchy subjects in a very human way. He never forgets to incorporate a very ironic at times, very quirky at others, sense of humor.
On to the subject at hand. Towelhead is no exception. People have been claiming that this is extremely graphic, should be considered “kiddie porn,” is racist, etc. I can’t imagine these reviewers were watching the same film as me. This is purely conservative propaganda. The film has a very strong anti-racist message. As in the typical Ball fashion, though, the racist in the film is unexpected, apparently giving the unsuspecting viewer the idea that the message is racist? I can’t figure out the psychology there.
Next: The claim that this is “child pornography”. The very first thing that we should note is that the main content of the film is an exploration of the psychological problems of a 13 year old girl that gets raped. Anyone that considers child rape as the same thing as pornography probably shouldn’t be let into movie theaters. Secondly, these people have very vivid imaginations, since the claim that “very little is left to the imagination” is also false. If the concept of the film wasn’t so serious, then this film could almost get away with an under R rating. I was sort of baffled at how much was left to the imagination. Whenever the girl was naked there was always, always something there to hide her neck down. Whenever a sex scene occurred, you almost never saw both people. They were done through cuts, so usually only three seconds or so were shown of the beginning and then it would cut to after the scene.
In conclusion, there is no denying that it truly was one of the more disturbing movies I’ve ever seen. It was extremely dark, yet had moments in which the theater couldn’t stop laughing. Ball can really lighten the mood and make these subject matters much more watcher friendly. The hype about child pornography is just that, hype. You will be disturbed, but you don’t have to worry about extremely graphic scenes. It is almost The Bell Jar-esque in its ability to put yourself in the victim’s place and understand why the character behaves in the way she does.
I highly recommend this to fans of Ball, but if you didn’t like his earlier stuff, this is sort of a more extreme version of it, so I wouldn’t recommend it to you.