THE WOODSMAN (2004)

ICARUS RISING

Nicole Kassell has really shined in this, her debut feature film. In 1997, while still a graduate student at NYU’s Film School, she attended a free reading of Steven Fechter’s new play, THE WOODSMAN, at the famed Actor’s Studio. She was so impressed with this bare bones minimalist play that she immediately approached Fechter and wanted to secure a film option on it. Because she was still a student, Fechter, at first, was understandably reticent to let her have it. Her enthusiasm, in the end, won him over. Her NYU thesis production was a 25-minute short film called, THE GREEN HOUR. In 2001, her short film was being screened at Sundance. By that time, she had finished writing the screenplay for THE WOODSMAN. Consequently she won the screenplay competition that year at Sundance as well. She received several offers for her hot new screenplay, but she wisely decided not to sell her script unless she was given the opportunity to direct it.

Kassell forged forward with the project, fully expecting that since this was her first film, and it was an Indie to boot, that she would have to tap out her friends and family, and max out her own credit cards to fund it. She figured she would have to shoot it fully digital, on the cheap. She had begun writing the script in 2000. Soon thereafter, the Catholic pedophile explosion and expose made everyone’s awareness and consciousness about this dark world more acute. Somehow in the Cinemiasma of film creation, Kevin Bacon and his wife, Kyra Sedgewick, became involved with the project. Bacon shouldered the responsibilities of executive producer, and he found nine other contributors that would take on the moniker of producer. With Bacon at the fiscal helm, doors opened, and Kassell was given the financial support that would allow her to shoot a first rate film.

She directed with remarkable confidence and assurance. She has created a powerful drama that may be a tough sell commercially. Yet, in a world where a Michael Jackson can use his fortune, and a posse of thugs, to recruit pedophilic fodder for his Neverland love nest—perhaps we are more than ready, actually receptive, for a chance to look at the darker side of our nature. Kassell, as a female director, is a welcome addition to the swirling black hole of World Cinema. Perhaps women directors will begin to make their mark. Step up, ladies, and take your rightful place at the side of the powerful princes of Moviedom. We are allowed women governors, but when will a female be called Madam President? Well, that is another inquiry that can be investigated at a future date.

Ida Lupino, the fine 40’s actress, made her directing debut in 1949. She scored big with her film, THE HITCH-HIKER in 1953. The directing she was allowed to do after that was mostly delegated to television. Penny Marshall, the comedic actress, began directing some of the episodes on her series, LAVERNE & SHIRLEY in 1976. She made her film-directing debut in 1986 with JUMPIN’ JACK FLASH. Her films are very interesting, and yet in fifteen years, she has only directed 8 of them. At Sundance this last year, women directed 25% of the films. Perhaps there is still hope.

Steven Fechter, the playwright, was the co-writer on the film script. In 1997, THE WOODSMAN as a play was a New York Times Critic’s Pick. Originally Arthur Miller at the Actor’s Studio produced it. A lot of important people seemed to have faith in it. It was introduced as a “free” staged reading. This is what Nicole Kassell attended. Her immediate need to secure the rights to the play was like the love affair that Kirk Douglas had with ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST. He sewed up the option on that quickly, and even appeared in the lead in a theatrical production of it; but no one in Hollywood was interested in converting it to film. Then, many years later, his son, Michael, stepped up and took over the producing chores. It became a classic film with Jack Nicholson. It took off like a rocket, and Oscars were tossed at it by the bushel.

In THE WOODSMAN as a play, there were minimal props and no set changes. Walter just sat on a nearly bare stage and other actors entered and played their scenes. As a character, Walter was more extroverted, aggressive and sarcastic. So for the movie Kassell had to invent all the outside scenes, like the world of the lumberyard. None of that was in the play. There was no Boss, no Eve (the secretary), no co-workers, and no bus rides. Vickie’s part was expanded, wisely, in the film too. She became the solid counterpoint and stanchion for Walter. Oddly, Steven Fechter turns out to be a bit of an enigma, a literary phantom that cherishes his privacy. If one “Googles” him, hundreds of hits come up, but they all only reference his play, and this film—nothing more. When his Bio is clicked on it appears as nearly empty, clean and barren of data. He does not seem to be very interested in publicity. I hope he shows up at the Oscar ceremony.

Xavier Perez Grobet, a Mexican lenser who has helmed camera crews on 30 films since 1991, did the cinematography. His first couple of dozen movies were all obscure Spanish films. Then in 2003, he completed Hallmark’s A PAINTED HOUSE. WOODSMAN is only his second English language film. He, also, has done several episodes of the HBO landmark Western series, DEADWOOD. THE WOODSMAN was filmed in Philadelphia, though it was never identified as such. The tone was blue-gray, full of long dark shadows, rain-soaked, muted and desaturated. One critic wrote,” The dour bluish cinematography in a cold overcast world was spectacularly symbolic as overarching atmospherics for the cruel drama.” Nathan Larson, who is only 34 years old, did the score, a kind of interesting electronic blend. He already has written scores for 19 films including BOYS DON’T CRY (1999), and TIGERLAND (2000).

The plotline is unique, tough, uncompromising—and yet a bit of a straw man. It’s protagonist, Walter, is a paroled pedophile. Pedophile. When we just hear, or read the word, the hair on back of our necks bristle. Pedophile connotes “predator”, a deviant shackled by demons. But there is no homosexual arc here. Walter does not prey on young boys. He seduces and molests young girls, ages 9 to 12, when they are first blossoming, showing the first tentative swellings of what will become breasts, showing smiles of innocence and sadness, showing initial glimpses of the incredible women they might grow up to be. Walter has the need to be there first, to “deflower” them; to sip at their honey before it’s sweetness is fully mature. His primal urges are unbalanced and out of control. He manages to imprint the tender psyches of these pre-maidens with deep emotional scars, altering their worldview and their ability to love another. He is fresh out of prison. He did a loaf, had a baker’s vacation—served twelve years. This film by telling his story has to break new ground. This kind of pedophilia is not often dramatized. Young nubile boys are usually the targets, as in MYSTIC RIVER (2003), and SLEEPERS (1996).

We see Walter as a man walking on eggshells, and to him it feels like he is running barefooted over broken glass. He wants to re-enter society, but he knows the stats. 95% of pedophiles return to prison unredeemed, as career criminals, incorrigibles, and they never see the light of day again. He has reclaimed his old job at the lumberyard. The boss seems to understand the complexities and difficulties in re-hiring him. Walter had worked there more than a decade before for the man’s father. So Walter would have his chance—but of course with the proviso that there would be no slack if he re-offended, and got back into trouble. Walter became taciturn, walking and working quietly like a tense shadow. He had no money for a car, so he rode the bus. Young girls rode the bus too. Some of the employees tried to get to know him, [I guess none of them, conveniently, had been employed there twelve years prior]. He was not receptive; so they just left him alone with his head down and his nose close to his power saw.

One of the forklift drivers at the yard was a woman—a fetching middle-aged blond named Vickie. She worked shoulder to shoulder with the men, and tried to desensitize herself to the condescension and sexual harassment. [Which seemed strange to me in this day and age]. At one point in the story, Vickie, tired of the innuendos and dirty jokes, blew up at Pedro, one of her co-workers. Walter witnessed this. Later, in the lunchroom, he checked on her to see if she was “all right”. His concern was genuine, and she was touched by it. A few days passed, and then she paused in her Blazer at the bus stop and offered him a ride. He stared at her sweetly but warily, and politely turned her down. But on another rainy day, when she offered again, he climbed aboard. This relationship was essential for Walter, and for the plot. He needed to cultivate a sexual relationship with a woman his own age. This would be a primary building block in the fragile foundation of what he hoped would be his new life. Left alone, to his own devices and demons, he would have succumbed to the dark tentacles that were still attached to him.

When they made love for the first time the scene was torrid and extra steamy. I mean Walter had been in prison all those years, so he was a league beyond just being horny—he was ravenous, a caged wild thing put in a stall with something that smelled good and seemed receptive. Their sexual encounter was rough and tumble. But she was game, and though she commented on the event, she did not seem frightened off by it. It put me in mind of a scene from AMERICAN ME (1992). Edward James Olmos had just been released from prison, and he was more than used to having anal sex with other men. When he proposed this to his wife, who had waited for him, she was appalled by the offer.

Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgewick were very comfortable in those scenes. As man and wife, they seemed to let us in to have a glimpse of their “real” relationship; the heat, compassion and connectiveness. This was similar to what we witnessed with Alec Baldwin and Kim Basinger in the remake of THE GETAWAY (1994); or for that matter Steve McQueen and Ali MacGraw in the original film (1972).

Walter worked hard, and he seemed to want to lead a “normal” life, free of his deep-seated shame, and his nearly uncontrollable urges. Yet he was confronted by a society that was mostly unwilling that give him that chance. A black woman in the office where he worked, named Eve, felt put off by him, so she began to snoop into his personnel file, and search on the Internet for news. Sex offenders have to post their pictures and stats on the Internet for a set period of time. It was not hard for her to find Walter. She ran off the mug shot and sordid history sheet, and posted it on the bulletin board at work. Some co-workers even had their own copies pasted up in their lockers. Walter waltzed into a hornet’s nest. His secret was laid bare, and most of his fellow employees were incensed. His boss stuck up for him; a rather pointed plot device. This appeared to be a cinematic circumstance that did not ring true.

In Philosophy 101, this would be called the “Straw Man” argument. Within the fabric and the particulars of one’s argument, or point of view, they have to include those qualities that would insure concurrence, consent, agreement—and then closure. Walter’s spartan apartment was across from a schoolyard. He claimed that this was the only landlord that would actually rent to him—how ironic, how plot-convenient. But then was it supposed to be true, or was Walter manipulating and lying? Miss Vickie fell for him and offered him an “adult” physical/sexual relationship with a woman of his compeer age. This was beyond integral; this was a primary ingredient in his “situation”. It would elevate him above the depraved and deprived brotherhood of pedophiles. They slept with despair and deviant desire. He slept with the vivacious Vickie. They would return to the strong arms of incarceration. He might not.

Add to that Walter ever so conveniently witnessing another pedophile preying on young boys at the schoolyard. Walter kept a journal, at his therapist’s request. In it he wrote his frustration. He wanted to take action, or to warn somebody of the boy’s peril—but he felt powerless. Then we were introduced to the “Woodsman” character from the Red Riding Hood stories—the one that cut open the wolf’s stomach with an axe and saved her. This was a nice, albeit contrived, touch—transforming this darkest of dramas into fable. Now Walter could dream of being the Woodsman—the one that put things right. If he stopped others from offending, perhaps he could stop himself. Yes—and no, whispered the chorus of the plot.

Walter began to weaken. He had already scouted young girls at the mall and on the bus. His co-workers shook their fists at him, and kept him stressed. He told Vickie, at her insistence, of his dark secret. She fled, and was having difficulty dealing with it. A cop, a detective sergeant, kept dropping by his place, and confronting him and pressuring him, reminding him that he was no better than rabid vermin, only worthy of incarceration or extermination. The old urges resurfaced, and he began to fall back into his predatory pedophilic patterns.

At the mall, he came very close to taking the next step and interacting with the young girls he had been watching. On his daily bus ride he had targeted another sweet young lady. And then on one very stressed-out day at work, he left early. He knew from his surveillance that the girl, Robin, liked to go to the park and watch birds. He went to the park that day and began to interact with her. It was frightening and fascinating to watch how charming and friendly Walter could be with her; how smooth, how ingratiating.

He sat by himself on a bench in her sightline, and finally she came to him, a fresh butterfly into his sticky web. We all cringed as Walter made his move, and he began to suggest a physical encounter—to have her sit on his lap. This scene was pivotal to the plot. Everything hinged on it, like that marvelous scene between Paul Giamatti and Virginia Madsen in the middle of SIDEWAYS (2004). For us, this scene with Walter and Robin was electric, scary, and fascinating; and ultimately beautifully and sadly compassionate. When Walter walked away—his new life really began.

Kevin Bacon was Walter, and this was a towering performance, scorching in its intensity, penetrating in its tense silences. Bacon, as an actor, over his twenty year career, continues to be better than most of the material he has been handed to work with. He chose to make Walter quiet—not abrasive like the stage version; although there are several scenes that his sarcastic intelligence emerged, like with the therapist, and others with Carlos, the brother-in-law. He would inhabit a scene like a piece of furniture. You see him, but you would not pay much attention to him. When, or if, you did notice him and you would look into those gaunt features, you would be greeted with dead unfocused eyes. Walter was keeping everything in check, every muscle, every twitch, every inflection and intonation. Like any animal that has been caged, whipped, and degraded, when it is finally set free, its tail spends a long time between its legs. Its head is always down, and it never seeks your gaze. Internally Walter is struggling to emancipate his decent impulses, separating them from his destructive predatory ones, that pedophilic imp that lurked so close to the surface.

Kevin Bacon was born in Philadelphia. He attended the Pennsylvania Governor’s School for the Arts. His first film role was in ANIMAL HOUSE (1978). Since then he has appeared in 55 movies. I really enjoyed him in FOOTLOOSE (1984), FLATLINERS (1990), THE RIVER WILD (1994), MURDER IN THE FIRST (1995). He was excellent at Ricky Schroth in the seldom-seen DIGGING TO CHINA (1998). He has been married to Kyra Sedgewick since 1988. They met that year on the set of the TV film, LEMON SKY. They have two children. His son is now in a hip-hop band. They live on a farm in Connecticut. They never have lived in Hollywood, or even in California. He is an east coast kind of guy.

He, also, has an extensive background in music. He and his brother, Michael, have a band called THE BACON BROTHERS, and they have released three albums. He created a game that film buffs love to play, called Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon. You pick any actor, and you then pick one of their films, and then you pick a co-star in that film, and then refer to another film that they appeared in, and so on, until one of the co-stars has appeared in any of Bacon’s 55 films. For instance, if we picked Kathy Bates, who has appeared with Jack Nicholson in ABOUT SCHMIDT (2002). Jack Nicholson appeared with Dennis Hopper in EASY RIDER (1969). Dennis Hopper appeared with Kevin Costner in WATERWORLD (1995). Kevin Costner appeared with Kevin Bacon in JFK (1991). That would represent four degrees of separation. If we were very brave, we could push it right to the edge, all six degrees of separation. We could start with actor Ben Affleck, who appeared with Judi Dench in SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE (1998). Judi Dench appeared with Kate Winslet in IRIS (2001). Kate Winslet appeared with Johnny Depp in FINDING NEVERLAND (2004). Johnny Depp appeared with Gabriel Byrne in DEAD MAN (1995). Gabriel Byrne appeared with Matt Dillon in FRANKIE STARLIGHT (1995). Matt Dillon appeared with Kevin Bacon in WILD THINGS (1998).

Kyra Sedgwick was Vickie. She is a wonderful actress, who like her husband Kevin, is somewhat underrated. Her Vickie was tough, tender, very sexy, an earth mother, and damaged goods. Her admission to Walter that she had been sexually molested for years by all three of her older brothers, and her consequent adjustment to it, were essential ingredients in the new stew of Walter’s world; both the journey and the domicile. Sedgwick was born in New York. She had her acting debut at 16 on the soap opera, ANOTHER WORLD (1982-83). She has been in 39 films since 1985. I thought she was great as MISS ROSE WHITE (1992), as the stunning Clare Kelsky in MONTANA (1998), in PHENOMENON (1996), and recently as mother Mae in SECONDHAND LIONS (2003).

Mos Def, sometimes called Dante Terrell Smith, and/or five other names, is a rare commodity. On the one hand he is a successful hip-hop artist with a hit album out, called BLACK ON BOTH SIDES. In addition, he is a “working” actor. He already has had featured roles in 22 films. He was quite good in MONSTER’S BALL (2001), and THE ITALIAN JOB (2003). His role in this film, as Sgt. Lucas represents his best work. In just a few brief scenes he made a tremendous impact. For me, though, it wasn’t clear whether he was supposed to be the parole officer, or just a nosy concerned cop. Lucas made it abundantly clear that he did not harbor any hopes that Walter would “behave himself”. For him, it was not if Walter would re-offend, it was just when.

Benjamin Bratt played Carlos, Walter’s brother-in-law. He made regular visits to check on Walter, carrying messages from his wife (Walter’s sister), who refused to see him in person. [There was a back-story about childhood incest that the sister never quite got over.] When Carlos first married his sister, the new in-laws disapproved of the “brown-skinned boy” from across town, but Walter was non-judgmental—and Carlos felt indebted to him. Walter would like to see his niece. She was born after he was sent to prison. While discussing the non-possibility of that meeting, Walter made the mistake of inquiring into Carlos’ “feelings” for his nubile young daughter. From Walter’s perspective, no father was every completely trustworthy. Carlos exploded, threatening to kill him if he ever came near the daughter, his niece. Untrustworthy fathers, as a plot motif, were explored later. Since 1988, Bratt has appeared in 30 movies. I liked him in TRAFFIC (2000), and RED PLANET (2000), and he was outstanding in PINERO (2001). Most fans remember that for a time, he was Julia Robert’s boyfriend.

Eve played Mary Kay, the troublemaker at the lumberyard office. She has a rather colorful Bio. She spent a few years as a stripper and lap dancer before she started rapping. Today, she is the only female signed to the RUFF RYDER label. In the world of Hip-Hop, she is nicknamed, “Eve of Destruction” and “ Pit Bull in a Skirt”. She has appeared in seven movie projects, often as a blonde. I remember her in XXX (2002), and BARBERSHOP (2002). In WOODSMAN she was quite effective, and as a viewer I disliked her character very much.

For me the rising star of this film, young Hannah Pilkes as Robin, the girl Walter followed into the park, inhabited the brightest spot. Her simplicity, clarity, and deep sadness just seemed to leap off the screen. This was her film debut, and it was incredibly good, as effective as Juliette Lewis’ debut in the remake of CAPE FEAR (1991). When Walter befriended her, making his small talk, and then moved smoothly, expertly on to,” Do you want to sit on my lap?”—People began to hold their breath. At first, politely, she declined the offer. Then she dropped the bombshell tidbit of information—her daddy had her sit on his lap all the time.

Smiling, Walter asked,” Do you enjoy it when you sit on his lap?”

“No.” came her simple softly spoken response.

A single tear rolled down her pink cheek. The raw significance of her statement, of her life, of her self-image, struck Walter between the eyes like a psychic thunderbolt—and it seemed to bring him to his senses.

Robin: Do you still want me to sit on your lap? I will.

Walter: No—go home, Robin.

David Alan Grier was Bob, the boss; formerly the bosses’ son when Walter had worked there twelve years prior. Grier, known mostly for his stint on IN LIVING COLOR (1990), started his career in 1981, playing Jackie Robinson in a Broadway musical called THE FIRST. Out of the gate he received a Tony nomination. Since 1983, he has been in 47 films, mostly in comedic roles. In WOODSMAN he made good use of his brief scenes as Bob the Boss. Carlos Leon played Pedro, the co-worker that harassed Vickie, and later threatened Walter. He is perhaps best known for fathering a child with Madonna in 1996. I liked him as a comical thug in THE BIG LEBOWSKY (1998).

Walter walked a tightrope in this film, waving his arms frantically to keep his fragile balance. As viewers our stomachs knotted up as he began to fall, dropped to his crotch, and hung on with only one hand. Walter, despite his therapy, distrusted all fathers, and found he was tittering on the slippery slope of pedophilia. It brought to mind the plight of stepfathers. They tend to transgress more than natural parents. The twisted inquiry from Walter nearly cost him his relationship with Carlos. The film illustrates how very easy it is to encounter those around us who have been confused, abused, and traumatized. Robin, in the park, painted a devastatingly dark portrait of her father’s behavior. Vickie, post-coitus, calmly recalled how her older brothers had used her as a sexual surrogate for years. When you raise three stepdaughters, as I have, one must endure that awkward period when they blossom into womanhood, and even your friends leer at them, overwhelmed by their maiden’s blush and their burgeoning bounty.

In THE WOODSMAN, as I watched the handsome pedophile hanging around the elementary schoolyard, handing out candy and free rides to eight year old boys—I had a visceral reaction; like the overpowering panic you feel when your have an MRI with your eyes open. I heard a voice in my head prompting Walter to act, to be “the Woodsman”, and when he finally did confront the deviant, pummeling him to a pulp, literally breaking his face and several bones—I gave a silent cheer, as if I were a giddy spectator at a junior high basketball game. Yet, interestingly, there is a second voice in all our heads, that is calm, quiet, and rational—and it questioned my reaction. In life, if a fox preys on your chickens—you kill the fox. So when a pedophile preys on your children, what are your moral and legal alternatives? When pre-pubescent children sexually arouse some sick twisted human being—what in hell do we do with them? How are we supposed to react? What are our guidelines? Yes, these are tough questions that simply defy linear or monosyllabic answers.

Back in the decade of the 1960’s, when protests were the order of the day, when the New Morality, the pill, and psychedelic drugs were easily attainable, where American youth perished overseas in an unjust war, when the earliest of the Civil Rights movements stirred up a hornet’s nest of violence, resentment, and social consciousness—I wrote a few lines of free verse to summarize my twenty-something angst.

P H A E T H O N

An Existential Valentine

The word

Love,

Scrawled out with a crooked stick

On a sand dune unseen

And lost

In the Sahara.



Pain dulling our senses,

Until we felt the need to

Bathe in beer,

Swim in ale,

Wade in wine,

Gargle bourbon,

And weep in the wind.



Sirens wailing,

Far off,

Like mutant coyotes

Running the dark streets.

Young mothers and wives

Kissing cold caskets,

Presenting their loved ones

As fodder

For the worms.

Corpses stirring

In their dark graves,

Bone against silk,

As the Earth Mother flexes

Her mossy bosom.

Dogs and possums run over,

Lying lonely

Alongside great gray highways.

The terrible anguish of multitudes

Sleeping in alleys

Within their cardboard boxes,

Huddled like vermin,

Hiding in plain sight

From the weather and other men;

Sucking on brown bottles,

And fondling flasks.



Garbage cans clanking,

Exhaust billowing into brown strata,

Children shoeless in winter,

Roller blades on rough concrete,

Cat and bankers both

Choking on fish bones;

Chicken hawks hovering

Near playgrounds and parks,

With candy and erections in hand;

Priests playing pedophiles

With choir boys

As their sex toys.



Corporations celebrating mediocrity,

Audiences applauding defeats,

Men murdering other men

Everywhere,

For all kinds of reasons;

Crickets rubbing their legs together,

Locusts blackening out the sun,

Fish spawning in mud puddles,

Bright sprouts springing to bloom

From blackened stumps;

Brothers in brothels,

Eggs with no yolk

And no shell,

Calves with three heads,

Snakes in the walls,

And rain falling from cloudless skies.



Goddamn it,

I tell you

I can hear

Bullets bouncing off buildings,

Sewers sucking silt,

Air hammers battering,

Girders bending,

Papers blowing,

Tires squealing,

Waves pounding,

Kiddies calling for cotton candy,

Cash registers ringing up blood,

Hounds hosing down hubcaps,

Beans bursting bowels,

And hearts hardening.



So,

All that Is,

Poignant paralysis trillion-fold,

Even if I fail

To drive the Sun God’s chariot,

The oceans

And the insects

Remain

Forever.



Glenn Buttkus 1966



In prison they call a pedophile a “Short Eyes”, or a “Chicken Hawk”. Often these men are abused, even murdered by the other inmates. Their life expectancy was like a Medic stepping off a Huey in a hot zone in the Highlands of Viet Nam—five seconds to five hours. There was a film called, SHORT EYES, produced in 1977, that was based on a controversial play by Hispanic playwright Miguel Pinero. While incarcerated, homosexuality or bisexuality is not the issue—for they are too often the mainstays of prison life. It is a place, after all,” With three hots and a cot, with a punk in every bunk.” It seems to be the molestation itself that is the sore point—the preying on, and the abusing of children. Criminals remember too vividly their own “childhoods”, and they are not forgiving of those others that have stepped over the line, who have taken advantage of, have slain, innocence. After a lifetime of thinking of priests as mostly kindly, wise, and caring silver-haired Irishmen, who could toss back a pint, or pin your ears back when necessary—I found myself pushing the images of Spencer Tracy in BOY’S TOWN (1938), and THE DEVIL AT FOUR O’CLOCK (1961), of Bing Crosby in THE BELLS OF ST. MARY (1945), and GOING MY WAY (1944), of Frank Sinatra in THE MIRACLE OF THE BELLS (1948), of Karl Malden in ON THE WATERFRONT (1954), of Robert De Niro in TRUE CONFESSIONS (1981), completely out of my consciousness. I had to push back and think of the dangerous lives of Choir Boys who walk naked and innocent across minefields of depravity and psychological bludgeoning. My own indignation gets kick-started when I think of priests, who have been closet pedophiles most of their careers, who have been trusted by parents and their children, who prey like tomcats in alleyways midst the cathedrals of this world. But it is not a black and white problem with a workable solution. Priests, themselves, in my view, are twisted into a dark consciousness by an enforced unnatural celibacy, that in itself breeds homosexuality and indifference.

Interestingly, rarely does murderous ire get raised more often than when one is confronted with deviant sexual orientation. Fags, queers, dykes, lesbos, faggots, female impersonators, he-shes, and morphidytes—human beings trapped in the wrong body, victims of a cruel helix, a genetic joke. As we get angry and anxious, is it secondary to fear? Do we fear homosexuals and lesbians because our own personal journey to sexual maturity was rife with insecurities, pain, indiscretions, and ignorance? Or are we just simply repulsed by the mere suggestion of impropriety or immorality, or witnessing any significant deviation from what we consider the “Norm”?

My hero, Roger Ebert, masterfully summed it up for me. “ Most of us have sexual desires within the areas found acceptable by society. It is easy to present a pedophile as a monster. [See Peter Lorre in Fritz Lang’s 1931 film, “M”], less easy to suggest the emotional devastation that led into, and leads out of, his behavior. This is not a morality play (THE WOODSMAN), but a study in character. Clearly, it is not the pedophile that is evil, it is the pedophilia. It is not that we are capable of transgression that condemns us, but that we are willing. The challenge for a moral life is to do nothing that needs forgiveness. In that sense, we are all on parole.”

I gave this movie a rating of 4.5 stars.
Glenn Buttkus (2005)