24 September 1999 | Dave Godin
"BAD" IS NOT JUST GOOD, IT'S GREAT!
Although Andy Warhol's association with this movie was merely nominal, the late Jed Johnson and his screenplay writers produced, (whether consciously or not hardly matters), one of the truly subversive masterpieces of American cinema. It is a more devastating critique of capitalism than any film ever produced by the so-called communist countries, and it forces us to face so many different issues, and ask ourselves just what we have collectively allowed our society to become. (Britain, by the way, is rapidly catching up in this respect; we usually trail the US by about five years in such matters!). It is too, one of the most strangely MORAL films, peopled, (with one exception), with characters so hideous, or selfish, or self-seeking, or ruthless, or just plain cruel, that empathy is thin on the ground, and yet the exception, (the docile, trusting, slightly naive, and conventionally "plain" and "square" Mary; was that name deliberately chosen for its symbolic value I wonder?), emerges as the true survivor, whose basic humane values are so cogently reflected in her closing line of the film, "Looks aren't everything". All the values that we are brainwashed into believing are "sharp", "hip" or "cool" are turned on their head, and even more amazingly, one of the ultimate messages that this remarkable film delivers, edges very close to an anarchist philosophy, that meaningful change and revolution has first to start with the individual, and that conventional "values" are hollow and riddled with hypocrisy if those espousing them are secretly pursuing hidden agendas of their own. (Step forward all the various "gate" participants of the last few decades..!). Certainly not a film for the squeamish, (how could the American ratings board or any caring parent allow children to watch such a movie?), but a film which I am sure the passage of time will show to be one of the most important American films ever. It really is that good! Technical credits are all outstanding too, (a brilliant score by the late Mike Bloomfield which fits the sleazy overall mood like a glove), and a performance from Carroll Baker that is worthy of an award. Approach this film with an open mind and some lateral thinking, and you too might discover that it is an unexpected revelation. A masterpiece!