Holy Smoke (1999 Australia)

The bad news: That filthy old lecher Harvey Keitel is naked. A lot. (I thought I was in hell enduring root canal surgery when this was happening…telling myself this can’t be happening!) Now the good news: So is Kate Winslet. So don’t get me wrong, there is much to see that might arouse a smile in this motion picture. But if you are looking for any redeeming value, enjoyment or creativity, then don’t waste two hours out of your life on this crap fest. Despite commendable acting from the film’s main actress, Harvey Keitel looks embarrassingly like an amateur in a high school drama. Quite strange considering she was only 23 and he was a whopping 60. In fact, why don’t I just shine a light on many of the problems and just plain perversity contained within this flick from the land down under?

Jane Campion enjoys a staggering personal fortune – in the region of a quarter of a billion dollars. For product like Holy Smoke. And Hideous Kinky. She is supposed to be some sort of genius who produces ‘feminist parables’ that are supposed to enlighten us. But this will just make you feel cheap and dirty. Campion just does not know how to be subtle. Among the irritations is the irrelevant and distracting Neil Diamond soundtrack and the token gay characters who have nothing to do with the plot. Although the movie supposedly takes place in Australia, only one person actually has an Australian accent, the rest of them being vaguely British. This is confusing for the viewer. The film culminates in a transsexual, surrealistic fantasia which can only be described as the work of a deviant, hallucinating pervert. Classy!

This flick shows the director’s personal thoughts exposing themselves on the screen. She seems to get just as horny as Keitel in directing the nude scenes as his character does in them. She’s irresistibly drawn to the sensual, and from the time the protagonist wets herself, we see Campion lose herself in the lush lust of the attraction and she doesn’t stop at any time to pull herself out of it and get back to the story. The picture itself is primitive and distasteful, very obvious all the time and without any moment that would surprise me. What would Sigmund Freud have made of Jane Campion’s motivations? She is supposed to be pro female but the 45 year old “feminist” obviously had no misgivings about her lead actress, a mere 23 years of age, being forced to strip naked and urinate on herself. In front of a leering elderly actor and millions of open mouthed cinema goers the world over. (Top marks for chutzpah Jane…)

What went through Kate Winslet’s parents mind when they saw the finished product is anyone’s guess. Their daughter had been monstrously exploited by a very strange woman from New Zealand. She had been contracted to lie under a decrepit sleazeball while his wrinkly buttocks thrust away. And the only motive was to generate as much cash for the amoral, soulless Hollywood machine. But Jane and sister Anna, who co-wrote this senseless mess, can’t fool the audience. Harvey Keitel’s self-indulgent character (“183 successful cases”) is introduced as a man for all seasons. The scene at the airport says it all: looking cool in shades, he’s self-aware but still looks like the slick manager of a cheap back-street brothel.

And despite being paid $10,000 by a worried Australian family to help de-program their daughter he still humps her the first chance he gets. This is the last thing her family desires to happen. Hasn’t their daughter been damaged enough? Maybe he wants to make her pregnant so he can enjoy elderly fatherhood. Who knows? Case 184 was obviously too stressful for him to keep it in his trousers. So what is all this clap trap really about? A female using sex to get what she wants and a man who can’t resist a woman offering herself. Wow, Jane and Anna, what a revelation! Holy Smoke! I’ve seen better character motivation in grade school plays.

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