perhaps. But eminently profitable. The plain fact that
internet traffic in pornography is significantly higher
than any other kind of traffic points to Kinsey's forgivable
lack of prescience. But the man himself as a biopic
topic? He's tailor made, rallying against ignorance
in the same way Gandhi rallied against colonial rule
– for most of their very different but extraordinary
sensitive to certain cuss words may want to find
a less 'cuss wordy' review but how the hell (sorry,
but it gets a lot worse) can you review a movie
about Alfred Kinsey without a few 'fucks' scattered
around the page? After all, Kinsey has the reputation
of placing the act of procreation in its more
natural fucking state and pushing ignorance to
its rightful state – oh no, definitely not bliss,
nor Indiana. To those less easily offended souls
who are still with me, my thanks.
of science risk a great deal taking on human sex. It's
the one subject that unites us, divides us, frightens
us and excites us and, if we have a religious bent (and
what belief system, religiously speaking, is not bent
in some way?) it tightly straitjackets us. Sex forces
us to reveal something eerily profound (if only to ourselves)
about our most primal, urgent and basest nature against
our better (?) and wholly invented natures. Morality
cannot easily be foist upon the act of procreation (and
therefore sex) because sex is procreative. It always
bothered me that many men and women serving their gods
would deny themselves this apparently god-given pleasure.
If you accept man's place in the animal kingdom then
you have to surmise we have animal instincts, desires
and procreative needs. Are they good or bad? Is the
Bonobo pygmy chimp good or bad while screwing every
other pygmy chimp in his or her immediate surroundings?
He's our closest relative but rarely gets invited to
dinner parties. He'd no sooner praise your petite fours
than hump his mother. Better leave him off the guest
list for now.
is natural and therefore, one can assume, morality free
– if we are simple animals. What about killing people?
Probably wrong in a tempered, moral world, a world in
which we do not live. Killing in the lap of 'Mother
Nature' is unequivocally acceptable (and therefore a
staple ingredient in certain natural history films,
snuff movies by any other name, but wholly tolerable
snuff movies if 'The Natural World' is to be believed).
Creating people, the very opposite? Even educated fleas
do it. But still the scent of impropriety swirls around
sex like wafts of musty guilt in a confession box. For
a long time (and thankfully this is changing), the British
Board of Film Classification would come down hard on
sex while letting violence bleed through. Sex and violence,
Mary Whitehouse's pet peeves. I keep wondering what
happened in that woman's life that led her to such blanket
denunciations. I would not like to have been stuck in
a room with her parents.
are many debates (that come up in Kinsey)
concerning those that have sex with procreatively inappropriate
partners. I am not lumping these assigned categories
together in any judgemental sense. They exist side by
side only by the simple fact that the sexual acts in
these instances are not procreative. Under scientific
scrutiny are homosexuals and a wider net-casting snares
paedophiles, omniphiles (ask Bill Condon, the writer/director
– I assume it's folks who have sex with everything but
it's not in my dictionary) and those that enjoy the
mute company of selected animals. But what scuppers
any rational scientific analysis on a subject so dear
to the advertiser's heart is the fact that sex is the
spaghetti to the human bolognese. It is so complexly
entwined with human experience that to be rational about
it is like being capable of taking the N out of DNA.
Yes, one can be rational about the physicality and the
actual act and its measurable, quantifiable aspects
and effects on the human being. But, and this is what
makes Kinsey so compelling, how do
you manage to strip away the e-motions from going through
don't. That's the rub. And that's what the movie Kinsey does so well. It frivolously and knowingly pretends
(very much from the Professor's point of view) that
sexuality and love can always be separated and one of
them pored over and studied. His own marriage is a hot
bed (naturally) of instances where the two forces collide
and yet he blithely sets out on his admirable mission
realising along the way that it's not the sex part that
holds the meaning – if there is any meaning to love.
Biology is provable science. Love is elusive and powerful,
like Genghis Kahn hiding behind a tree.
are powerful and contradictory emotions swirling about Kinsey, the awkward stuff that makes
you evaluate and re-evaluate what you are seeing every
five minutes or so. In the forties after the second
world war, Professor Alfred Kinsey, to his eternal credit,
attempted to demystify the abject delusions and the
ignorance that sex (and the fear of sex) had created.
No. Let's lay the cards on the table. Sex didn't create
the ignorance. Religion had regulated sex as a procreative
act. If you want kids, marry and fuck away. If you want
carnal pleasure without the responsibility of bringing
up offspring, then shame on you. No, preacher. Shame
are designed to fuck, not to adhere to belief systems
that literally did go out with the Ark. We have interlocking
parts. We are made to make other people even if this
is not one's immediate aim. We were given bodies that
could experience intense pleasure. Where is the key
to the man-made lock of our chastity? If you push a
button and an intimate partner smiles and goes 'Oh!'
then surely button pushing is a positive force for good?
Someone once signed a leaving card to me "life
is a sexually transmitted disease" and it was only
after many years that I fully understood the profundity
of the 'joke'. That the procreative act is so mindlessly
glorious is, to me, not the cosmic joke of a wayward,
odd god. It's a simple scientific fact. We are physically
rewarded with the orgasm because biologically doing
so we make babies, our genetic aerogram to the future.
If we need to set up rigid belief systems, why can't
they be based on a pleasure principal?
this 'sin' stuff actually for? Is it simply to control
the masses? The sin aspect is as misguided as it is
akin to a company manufacturing guns where the board
of directors is outraged when it learns that the products
actually fire bullets. That pandas have a low sex drive
(and, granted, a habitat destroyed by our own ambition)
almost guarantees their extinction. The human being
is far from extinct. Men and women (to concentrate on
what's seen as the so called 'normal' union for just
a moment) are so extraordinarily different in their
needs and desires, that some see this pointing in the
direction of proof of an Almighty. Really?
(it is believed) routinely cast their seed 'willy nilly'
(another phrase for impotence?) because they are driven
to experience as many orgasms as their brief lives may
allow. Women, who grow life in their own bodies, are
(generally speaking) choosier about their partners.
A great poet (Lord Byron) said it in more (granted)
poetic terms: "Man's love is of man's life a part;
it is a woman's whole existence. In her first passion,
a woman loves her lover, in all the others all she loves
is love." Well, that's not really Kinsey's area
but it does point to the single aspect of sexuality
that Kinsey really didn't get around to – love.
This is acknowledged in the closing moments of the film
and very glad I was for this inclusion.
is sex's tag partner (sometimes absent, sometimes more
than present) but an invisible one, one that needn't
be there for the sex to be fulfilling. Sex is physical,
pleasurable, mindful of the shutting out all that is
not orgasmic. Love is something else. We all have our
own relationship with love and all of its different
manifestations. Hell, there's even a love of money.
But then if we are all different (something Kinsey championed
based on his research on insects), generalities do not
apply. I have always thought that the following statement,
generally applied to both male and female, has some
frighteningly stark truth to it – "If you're hot,
you're hot. If you're not, you're not." Men and
women, men and men, women and women, men and goats…
(maybe not from the goat's point of view), this sharp
nick of truth works for me.
Condon's Kinsey is a mature work, a
grown up film for grown ups that underlines the ignorance
at the heart of any so called civilised western society
when sex rears its head. To the director's credit, he
has his name appear boldly superimposed over Kinsey
as a youth vigorously pleasuring himself. Fuck it. He's
masturbating. Euphemisms are for wimps. It's a detail
Condon proudly underlines in the commentary. In a deleted
scene, Neeson argues that "At least I'm aware of
my own ignorance…" It's a telling statement
that didn't make it into the finished movie but to be
aware of what one doesn't know is a wisdom all of its
own. To want to find out, given the society in which
you live, is either great folly or takes great courage.
Kinsey went for it, published it and was damned and
praised in equal measure.
both wanted and didn't want to know what was going on
behind closed doors. The fact that what mostly went
on behind closed doors were also ther machinations of
closed minds is something that percolates up, giving
Kinsey's research (and indeed life) a potency they would
not have achieved had the USA been The Netherlands.
The nether regions were private parts. You were either
brought up to celebrate your physicality or fear it.
Science is about the removal of fear. Science is about
the removal of superstition and belief systems that
enslave and oppress. But then, we are talking about
the western world. Look at the furore over Lewinsky's
stained dress and flipping over to HBO you could see
Samantha going for it, naked and big time on Sex
in the City. Has there ever been such a country
of absolute polar opposites? I was heartened to hear
an American friend of mine comment thus on Clinton's
Lewinskygate: "What's all the fuss about a guy
getting a blow job?" This was Kinsey's country,
the melting pot in which he pitched his life's work.
a hesitant and misjudged start to his own sexual life,
the great man decided to figure out what was so intoxicatingly
beyond reach in understanding mankind's fear, love and
obsession with sex. He trained research students to
ask the right questions, to give out the right body
language to put people at their ease. He gathered an
extraordinary body of work that was published and suddenly
America had a new hero, a new villain, a new religious
hate figure who would be perplexed why people reacted
so strongly against his seminal (!) works.
a lecture early in the film, you are treated to shots
of an erect penis nestled almost leisurely against the
lips of a vagina. It's not a CG effect (cinematically
we are not that far gone, not yet anyway) and draws
gasps from his audience, his real audience within the
movie. It's certainly a shock but then you have to temper
this with the strange fact that if statistics are to
be believed then what we are seeing in the bold light
of day is a photograph of parts of the body that people
on average bring together twice or three times a week.
Statistically, these images are mundane but just look
what we've done to sex to force it into the realms of
not advocating that we should all start enjoying pornography
willy nilly (don't you just love that phrase?). I work
in the Netherlands on occasion and a few years ago found
myself reaching for a newspaper. Standing up straight,
my line of sight fixed upon a medium to top row of glossy
magazines, I couldn't quite believe what my eyes settled
on. It was 8 o'clock in the morning which didn't make
it worse, just somewhat surreal. A beaming young nubile
woman smiled out at me, her face covered in… Hang
on. I'll leave that to your imagination despite little
being left to mine. It was genuinely shocking but my
first instinct was not to suppress it or censor it in
any way. Another aspect of pornography that has me puzzled
is the enormity of the industry when the actual moment
of truth for men lasts seconds and for women? That's
a mystery and I wouldn't even attempt to put a 'from
'x' to 'y' figure on their orgasmic durations. But Kinsey
movie deals honestly with a very tricky subject (the
human being just in case none of you were taking notes).
Neeson is a giant of a man and his performance is understated
and wholly convincing even if his accent did put me
in mind of Hopkins' turn as Hannibal Lecter. Laura Linney
(as Condon points out in his somewhat gushing commentary)
is the heart of the movie, the woman who has the audiences'
sensibilities. If she can be brought around to another
way of thinking, maybe an audience can be too. Kinsey's
researchers are all famous actors in their own right
(notably an older Timothy Hutton, a rampant Chris O'Donnell
and giving a touching and unusually sensitive performance,
Peter Sarsgaard). According to the director, all the
bittiest parts are played by actors of great theatrical
renown but stealing the scenes in which he features
is a towering John Lithgow. The man has to be a righteous
bastard with no humour who makes you glad you live in
this century not his – so why is he so entertaining?
He has to make Neeson wither (no small feat) but he
also has to play an excruciatingly frank scene with
his son over the denial of his own sexuality. The fact
he plays it with a phallic cigar in his hand and a near
tear in his eye is a testament to the man's skill. He's
wound tighter than a marquee guy rope and underneath
the bluster you feel that he knows it. Underused is
one of my favourite actresses (it turns out she was
also a victim of late excising), Veronica Cartwright.
She only has to deliver a look and it's enough.
the real kicker, performance wise, I have to mention
is Lynn Redgrave's. Her heartfelt one on one with Kinsey
at the end of the film packs an enormous emotional wallop
and it is given some measure of power in hindsight as
Condon informs us that she had just got through cancer.
Kinsey gave her character a key to her life and it's
really moving. It also pricks at a larger truth, a frustration
that sex inhibits people so much. That's what Kinsey
wanted to reveal, to unleash and if in part he was successful,
we should all be extraordinarily grateful.
movie is a talk-fest (yes, there is some sex in it)
and given that this DVD was not viewed on a fully functioning
5.1 surround system, I cannot comment on its aural tricks
but then it's a talking movie and tricks would detract.
Carter Burwell's score is noteworthy, managing to pull
together disparate editing choices with a full on emotional
and lyrical score. Frederick Elms' cinematography is
faithfully recreated on the DVD with a very warm and
period attentive detail but quite unlike movies that
seem to want you to be certain they did all their research.
Elms, like all great cinematographers, is into the communication
of the emotion and his work is exemplary.
Condon's commentary (as to be expected
from the man whose commentary on his own Gods
and Monsters was wonderfully revealing) is more
studied this time out but never dull and always quietly
revelatory. Kinsey is a huge subject and no one hour and
forty-five minutes is going to do the man justice so Condon
fills in a few blanks. Also notable are the remarks made
showing Condon's respect for the greats. He cites Vertigo as 'the greatest movie ever made' (not too many arguments
from where I'm sitting) and the fact that Kinsey (technically speaking) was a movie co-directed by Condon
and a certain John Ford. One of Ford's forces' V.D. Awareness
documentaries pops up in Kinsey, something
that Condon gleefully reveals. He also mentions a scene
in which Neeson is naked (in the mid shot, he clearly
isn't) and that the film makers were worried about the
MPAA's reaction to the film's explicit dealing with sex
and all its varied offshoots. One of his happiest moments
on the production was getting word back from the censors
– they gave it an 'R', not the dreaded rating above which
would have dumped the movie into unprofitability – the
word came back "Thank you. We learned a lot."
other offerings are:
Scenes – again, Condon takes us through
the brief snippets of scenes snipped for reasons mostly
of pace. Chris O'Donnell seemed to have come off the worst,
his best work being deleted. Nice to see the Albertus
font popping up again.
Reel – not a real side splitter but fun
as an inclusion.
Look – a 20th Century Fox advert essentially
including the trailer for Kingdom of Heaven a few other Fox productions and a featurette on the charming Sideways.
anyone interested in how sex wrenched itself from the
straitjacket of religious control, Kinsey's
your movie. Neeson is terrific, Linney centres the emotional
undercurrent, Lithgow is scary but compelling and Lynn
Redgrave knocks your socks off. The whole film is a powerful
nod to and against the forces that keep our true natures