The first annual High Falls Film festival ran Oct. 17 through Oct. 21. Named for the highest urban waterfall in the nation ? found here in Rochester ? the festival celebrated the work of women in film ? whether in front of or behind the camera. Rochester was chosen for its combination of having the been the home to both George Eastman and Susan B. Anthony, pioneers in film and women’s rights.

Among the lengthy list of films screened as part of the High Falls Film Festival was the premiere of L.I.E., a film about 15-year-old Howie and his life a year after his mother’s death on the Long Island Expressway ? the L.I.E. A fantastic Paul Dano plays Howie in his motion picture debut. An introspection about family life and what happens when parent and child stop communicating and grow distant. Director Micheal Cuesta’s film debut strikes a deep chord of truth.

Howie begins hanging out with the wrong crowd and starts breaking into houses for thrills. This friendship of his leads to his sexual awakening and his threshing out of his homoerotic impulses and feelings after a brief conversation with his charming friend Gary, played by Billy Kay.

The problematic part of the story begins when Gary has Howie help him break into Big John Harrigan’s house during his birthday party. As one would expect, they almost get caught and John figures out who it was that broke into his home.

What creates the problem is that Big John, played by Brian Cox, is introduced as a victim. As we slowly discover, he’s hardly so clean. Big John is a pedophile and Gary is one of his “boys.”

The sticky part of L.I.E. all stems from this, because otherwise it would easily be PG-13 or R rated. The movie is not pornographic or ultra-violent, it just doesn’t satisfy our need to easily hate Big John or give us a nicely wrapped up ending.

Big John begins to become something of a father figure to Howie, replacing his dead mother and disinterested father. Teaching Howie to drive, and getting him out of trouble, we are shown a much more complex character than one would expect.

While it is easy to dislike Big John for his pedophiliac tendencies, at the same time he is treated ? and behaves ? as a protagonist.

We, as an audience, are shown a three-dimensional character where traditional cinema would give us a flat, blatantly antagonistic Big John. But L.I.E. dares to go farther and in doing so is that much deeper of a film.

We are forced to grapple with twisted emotions and are made to feel as if we truly know Howie and Big John in a way that more mainstream films never can.

This is one of the main forces behind the distributor, Lot 47 Films, lobbying to have the Motion Picture Association of America create a new rating between R and NC-17. The main argument is that the ratings system is sold by the President and CEO of the MPAA, Jack Valenti, as a guide for parents to make their own decisions to avoid censorship.

How does NC-17 leave any room for parents to decide for their children to see a movie when it explicitly states that “no one 17 and under admitted?”

The MPAA also believes it can’t arbitrate between art and pornography. To claim not to see the difference between L.I.E., a Fellini masterpiece, and Debbie Does Dallas IV is laughable.

L.I.E. is both intellectually and visually a thought provoking and enthralling film. The fact that you won’t be able to find it at Blockbuster once it is out of theaters is criminal.

So do your mind a favor and, instead of driving to go see the latest Gwenyth Paltrow or Eddie Murphy film, go see L.I.E. at the Little Theatre while you still can. Once its gone from theaters, you may never have another opportunity to see it.

Paris can be reached at tparis@campustimes.org.



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