Friday, August 28, 2009

Dorian Gray: Censored and de-queered for the Wuthering Heights mob?

Ben Barnes as Dorian: simply not gorgeous enough

I fear Oliver Parker's new flick Dorian Gray (released in the UK on Sept 9) has de-queered Oscar Wilde's Gothic moral tale (The Picture of Dorian Gray).

Judging by the hetero-screaming trailer (below) alone, there is not a trace of the saturation camp of the book's early pages. Colin Firth is the personification of redundant cock-cuntery as Lord Henry Wotton while Ben "Prince Caspian" Barnes as Dorian is simply not beautiful enough: there must in Dorian's face be a suggestion of polysexual libertinage, a trace at least of the capacity to be "fatal to young men" through "friendship" (Wilde's necessary euphemistic way of describing cock-cockery in Victorian England). Dorian has to be exquisitely, ambiguously gorgeous to explain why he transacts with some unseen Satan to preserve his youth.

Imran Abbas. A more suitable Dorian?

Barnes has a dashing, OK face for the Wuthering Heights sofa sisterhood. Not worth saving.

Parker appears to have replaced the implied homosex of the original with some fashionable and graphic S&M - but then botched it via the British censor. The BBFC reports Momentum submitted an incomplete version of the film for advice on getting a 15 cert to avoid a less commercial 18.

The nanny twerps report: "A scene in which a tea party is intercut with shots showing Dorian's sadomasochistic excesses was toned down to remove or reduce the more explicit moments (explicit sight of a fingernail being pulled off, explicit sight of a chest being cut with a razor in a sexual context, explicit sight of blood being sucked from a woman's breasts and sight of a restrained man being beaten). Additionally, a murder scene was toned down to remove the sense of dwelling on the infliction of pain and injury (reduction in the number of stabbings, removal of a blood spurt from man's neck, reduction in sight of victim choking on his blood)."

Or Robert Pattinson, of Twilight fame

None of this sounds remotely interesting in the least, just sub-Tarantino or sub-Hostel. Parker's attempt to locate a modern taboo fell at the commercial hurdle, it appears. Let's see.


Anonymous said...

'Dorian Gray' is the first ever gay novel and should be celebrated as such. Wilde cranked up the convention of 'sentimental friendship' until there is no ambiguity at all. This is absolutely clear to a modern reader - and was clear to many at the time of its publication.

Madame Arcati said...

I wholly agree. But if the movie is to be true to the novel it should retain the idea of a taboo. I can smell its absence in this remake.

Anonymous said...

I find it incredible that Momentum would consult the censor on censoring its own movie.

Anonymous said...

It is important to make art about 'taboo'- but that is not the same as reinforcing it. A film of Dorian Gray would be absolutely amazing if it had only a tenth of Wilde's courage. This one obviously isn't - and hasn't.

Blithe Spirit said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Madame Arcati said...

Until I have seen the film I can't say for certain that the movie is a total distortion. But trailers tend to project the filmmaker's intention, so judging by the trailer alone I would say Dorian Gray has been heterosexualised for a young straight audience: it's well known that film companies are still nervous of gay theme flicks. The recent bomb that is Bruno won't have helped things - even though that is a satire/pisstake and has failed for reasons to do with lack of self-control in Cohen.

Dorian Gray only works as a tale I think because of its transgression: Victorian readers knew only too well what Wilde hinted at - certainly critics did. Queer sex may not have the transgressive power today of yesteryear, but a bright director could have found a way of preserving that aspect while intriguing and shocking modern minds. The fact is, so far as movies are concerned, S&M and murder are not especially transgressive: they're par for the course as an entertainment expectation.

Casting a slightly ambiguous, very beautiful man as Dorian would unsettle a modern aud - because psycho-sexually, most people are still pre-Cambrian. The Twilight star Robert Pattinson would be in the right direction. Or the Pakistani actor Imran Abbas - actually a racial remix of the story would be huge fun.

The late Alexander Walker said...

Barnes in the poster looks pretty. But then in the film he looks ordinary, though he keeps his mouth a bit open. Also, in the trailer, Firth as Wotton does sort of get too close to Dorian. His voice is all wrong, he doesn't sound fruity enough. I think the film lacks fruitiness.

Anonymous said...

This film sounds absolutely atrocious. That awful thumping score and all those sound effects booming. A fiasco.

Duralex said...

<< it's well known that film companies are still nervous of gay theme flicks. >>

Oh, really? Let's see...

- My own private Idaho
- Interview with a vampire
- Midnight in the garden of good and evil
- All about my mother
- Truman Capote
- The secret of Brokeback Mountain
- Milk

Etc, etc, etc. Not mentioning all the Oscars that were given to gay movies or to actors who played gay these later years. What more do you want, chéri?

Madame Arcati said...

There are more gay themed movies about but the reflex is to avoid them if possible. I'm seeing Gray next week and will report.