Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Pecker - Film Review

I feel violated. What the hell was this? I usually like odd and strange movies, but this one was...painful. (Sorry Paolo!) It was as if Norman Rockwell and David Lynch got together and dropped acid, but the trip went horribly wrong. I get the wholesomeness combined with raw edginess thing, but it ends up being mostly distressing in this case. It wasn't ALL bad - there were some funny lines - "Pubic hair causes crime." and "I love you more than Kodak!" And some of the quirkiness was quite inspired. I loved some of the scenes of the talking Virgin Mary ventriloquist dummy. But for the most part the comedic timing was off (maybe bad editing or directing?), and in the end I'm left feeling like I had a bad dream.

The plot centres around a young man, whose name is Pecker (I guess that's supposed to be edgy), whose snapshots of the ordinary people in his ordinary and small hometown show the raw humanity of his subjects. Pecker becomes a sensation after being discovered by an art dealer from NYC. Pecker's success then brings unwanted attention to the subjects of his images, who are his friends, family, and neighbours, and their lives are very nearly destroyed in the process. Pecker then has a gallery showing in his hometown in which the subjects are the movers and shakers of the New York art world. By forcing them to come to Baltimore and see themselves on display for a change, and by mixing with the common folk of Pecker's hometown, somehow both sides see their common humanity, and thus Pecker saves the day.

The film actually raises some important issues for photographers - permission, appropriation, the negative impacts photographs can have on their subjects, film versus digital, and the risk of being an overnight success (yeah, I WORRY about that happening all the time). But it's hard to take these issues seriously when the windows in Pecker's basement darkroom aren't even blacked out, he and his assistant seem to think that prints don't need to be in the fixer for more than a few seconds, washing apparently isn't needed at all before hanging the prints to dry, and all the prints in his gallery shows are vertical shots while we mostly see him taking horizontals. And for a movie about photography, the cinematography was boring. Perhaps director John Waters is trying to say something ironic about photography with this, but I think it's just lazy film-making.

But then again, maybe I just didn't "get it".


  1. Hey Jonah

    I think you summed up everything I was thinking perfectly. The humour wasn't there, the characters were too quirky and the story had good intentions but just didn't quite make it. These were probably good ideas at the time but the movie just couldn't pull it all together. The photos were good but yeah I just don't get it either.

  2. Good call, Jonah. At least I now know for sure I didn't have to see this movie, and never will. And I think you totally should worry about overnight success. I will just get to be one of those "I knew him when" people.