Saturday, 4 April 2015

Fillum Review - hounddog (2007)

Ooh, a little bit different sort of fillum this time round, as there are no sci-fi trappings, machine guns, explosions, supernatural creatures or anything like that at all.

No, this time round we have a nice, gentle tale of a young girl living in 1950s rural America.

Well, "Gentle" is a bit of a misnomer really..why?, well, read on.

Dakota Fanning plays "Lewellen", a 12 year old girl who lives with her devoutly religious grandmother somewhere in the deep south. Although Lewellens father lives in the same town, his alcohol problem and womanising nature make him an unsuitable parent, and her mother died, so she would be an unsuitable parent as well.
Lewellen has a passion for the music of Elvis Presley, and spends a lot of the time singing his songs whilst copying his dancing, much to the ire of her grandmother who views rock and roll music as satanic in nature.

So, this film sounds pretty run of the mill stuff, however the film holds a reyt nasty surprise in store for those watching it and enjoying the genteel "yesteryear" atmosphere that permeates the films first half.

About half way through, it is announced that Elvis himself will be playing a date in Lewellens local town as part of a national tour, she is determined to go and see him, even though she cant afford a ticket. Her friend, Buddy, whom she has known for years, says he has managed to get a ticket for her, and leads her to a remote barn to retrieve it. Inside the barn waits "Woodens boy", a teenager who recently took over as the towns milk man. Buddy says that Woodens boy has a ticket for Elvis that he is willing to give to Lewellen, however in return he expects her to repeat a scene from earlier in the film where she did her Elvis dance in his presence...except this time round, she will be doing it naked.
In her naivety (she sees nudity more as a humiliation rather than a titillation), Lewellen agrees and strips before doing her Elvis dance...then, as Buddy looks on in horror, Woodens boy violently rapes Lewellen.

Yes...a 12 year old girl is raped on screen while her friend of the same age looks on.

the film was savaged by critics because of this one single scene, as they said that it was intensely disturbing that Dakota Fanning, who at the time of filming was 14 years old, took part in a scene which had implied nudity and culminated in a serious sexual assault on her person by a much older man. Fanning herself said simply "Its not really hapenning" and "its a movie, its called acting"", and the director skillfully avoided any sexually titillating and/or paedophiliac material by simply showing Fannings facial reaction as the horror of what was happening to her was realised.
The film does in fact feature quite a bit of nudity, both male and female, however it manages to make use of some very skillful camera angles, close ups and a few conveniently placed objects to ensure that at no point are any tits, fannies, arses or willies ever in view.

That said, even all this still shocked many, and this film led to the governor of North Carolina (where the film was made) passing a law which required all film makers to submit their shooting scripts to the local authority before filming begins there, so they could ensure that all scenes shot in the state were "tasteful" and/or "unoffensive".

Nevertheless, "hounddog" (sic) is quite an entertaining film, giving a well written window into the life of a child living in rural America in the 1950s, and, despite the nasty surprise waiting for viewers (which I have now spoilt, lol) the story goes on to a nice conclusion.

Worth a watch this be.

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