Thursday, 23 August 2012

Film Review | Fuck (2005)

Released in the same year as The Aristocrats, another documentary that cares not a jot how much it might offend, Fuck is a film that ostensibly sets out to analyse one of the most offensive and versatile words in the English language ("fuck", in case you hadn't got that from the title), looking at its use in history as well as the many areas of modern life it crops up in. Whilst Steve Anderson's documentary manages this to a degree, it's not without its problems.

Anderson calls on a wide range of talking heads to discuss the four letter word in question, from porn stars to PhDs via politicians, comedians and rappers. There's no doubt that the director has done his homework, providing facts and figures about the use of "fuck" from its etymology, including false acronyms (I was genuinely surprised by how many vox populi interviewees believed the word is an acronym for "fornication under consent of the king" or a variation thereof), to its proliferation through popular culture, comedy and politics.

The problem comes from Anderson's lack of focus. He includes a great many clips from films and other media, but with no real purpose behind them. The film moves from one focus to another in fairly quick succession, but often with no underlying thread to tie things together. Things also seem to move off track a little too often; at times I wasn't really sure why certain material had been included - such as discussion of the "Nipplegate" incident at the 2004 Super Bowl - as it bore little relation to the main subject of the documentary, nor did it add much to it.

Many of these problems stem from Anderson's sloppy direction, never making it clear what his purpose or attitude is in making the documentary. Is he attacking the proliferation of the f-word or celebrating it? Examining modern attitudes towards and usage of the word, Anderson gives equal footing to both liberal and conservative viewpoints through the people he interviews, but never has the gumption to place himself on one side or the other. By sitting on the fence in this way, Anderson essentially ensures Fuck never has any teeth, making it a much tamer animal than many in the audience surely would want it to be.

In the end, Fuck never goes far enough down any path to make it worthwhile. It's amusing here and there, informative on a superficial level, but feels more like an extended ramble than a well-structured argument. By the time the credits rolled, I didn't feel satisfactorily educated, entertained or even offended. For a documentary purportedly analysing a word that causes such strong feelings in a great many people, this is disappointing. If you'll excuse my language, it's not that Anderson fucks things up completely, just that he never makes it clear why you should give a fuck about his film.


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