Thursday, November 09, 2017

The Cruelest Cut?

Apparently Kevin Spacey is to be completely cut from a movie he recently shot and replaced with Christopher Plummer before the film is released.  At first I thought that they meant that he would be digitally removed and Plummer, having performed his scenes in front of a blue screen, would be digitally inserted to replace him.  But, as far as I can make out, they are going to do it the old fashioned way, with Spacey's scenes physically cut and remounted with Plummer instead.  Whilst I realise that the makers are, understandably, trying to protect their box office, with Spacey currently being toxic due to the sexual harassment allegations leveled at him, it has left me wondering where it will all end.  Will we now see Spacey erased from all of his films and replaced with other, non-rapey, actors?  After all, in our current society where people go out of their way to be offended, the sight of an alleged sex offender, (athough, it is worth noting that Spacey hasn't denied any of the allegations and has as good as admitted his culpability with his announcement that he is 'seeking treatment'),  in old film might cause mass outbreaks of people running around shrieking 'Won't somebody think of the children?'.  

Perhaps all of those accused of sex offending should suffer the same treatment - imagine The Graduate with Dustin Hoffman replaced by a non-groper.   Rod Steiger.  Or Jim Nabors.  Of course, what used to happen in the past was that films prominently featuring disgraced actors would simply vanish for a period, all prints consigned to the studio vaults, no TV screenings and no home video or DVD releases.  Once it was felt that the furore had died down sufficiently, they would creep back into circulation, usually now labelled as 'cult classics' and marketed to a niche audience.  But with the apparently insatiable appetite for cinematic content created by cable, satellite and streaming, it just isn't practical to lock away such valuable commodities for any period of time.  So digital find-and-replace could become an increasingly viable option.  Mind you, it isn't always obvious that one of these alleged sex offenders is involved with a film.  I started watching a nineties horror movie the other day, only to find, as the titles rolled, that it was a Miramax production with Harvey Weinstein credited as producer.

Clearly, I should have poked out my eyes as soon as I saw his name, but should we really be judging movies, not on their artistic merits, but on what those who made them might have or have not done outside of their context?   Should art be judged on the basis of the actions of its creators?  It's a question which long predates the current controversy over sexual misconduct.  Many years ago, i worked with someone who refused to engage with the works of either John Lennon or Philip K Dick because they had both been guilty of instances of domestic violence.  The artistic merits of their work didn't come into it as my colleague simply couldn't separate the artist from their art.  It was if the latter was contaminated in some way by the actions of the former.  After all, without wishing to appear to condone or legitimise domestic violence, in both cases, these incidents represented only a small part of both individuals' lives- there were plenty of other factors influencing their work.  So, should we boycott any film featuring Kevin Spacey?  Would watching them in some way legitimise his (alleged) conduct?  After all, I disagree very strongly with the politics of many actors, directors and producers, but that doesn't stop me enjoying their films.  OK, I'll concede that John Wayne's Vietnam war flag waver The Green Berets is pretty much unwatchable because of its naive politics.  But that's because it allows its political message to overwhelm it.  The fact is that - as far as I'm aware - Kevin Spacey's films don't promote the groping of young men, so we shouldn't now, in my opinion, dismiss them out of hand.



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