REMEMBER THE valuesdebate last fall, the one that supposedly tipped the presidential election to Bush? Without whining over it too much, writer-director Bill Condon and the producers of Kinsey indirectly blame that conservative climate for their film’s modest success last year. (It picked up an Oscar nomination for Laura Linney, but not Liam Neeson; it was also on my 10-best list for 2004.) Condon supplies a smart feature commentary, and there’s a 90-minute making-of doc among the extras on this two-disc set, but to prompt a longer DVD afterlife, more time should’ve been devoted to “the way things haven’t really changed that much at all,” as Condon puts it.
We learn, for instance, how right-wingers were rallied against the film in one of those fake grassroots protests. They were led by Kinsey hater Judith Reisman, who appeared on The O’Reilly Factor to repeat her argument that, since Kinsey used data from an interview with a pedophile, he himself was logically a pedophile. Along with the teaching of “intelligent design” in Bible Belt schools, here’s another reason why our nation is falling steadily behind in the sciences. Merely raising the specter of pedophilia—as the film bravely does, in that long interview sequence deliberately designed to make you squirm—creates what Condon calls a “weird hall of mirrors.” If the actual Dr. Kinsey was controversial in the ’40s and ’50s, then headlines must repeat those old libels, and far be it from Bill O’Reilly to set the record straight. (No surprise that in a movie produced by a Fox imprint, tape from the show couldn’t be included on the DVD.
One of the great little tidbits here is how an older actress whose face pops up in a crisscrossed map montage of Dr. Kinsey’s travels and research was actually interviewed by the man in 1938. But as a movie, Kinsey keeps sex at a tasteful historical distance, rather than confronting it directly like its hero. If you think Michael Moore made people mad with Fahrenheit 9/11, just wait until a filmmaker is ballsy enough to continue the work where Dr. Kinsey left off.
July 12 Brings the Oscar-dominating Million Dollar Baby to disc, with no Clint Eastwood commentary. Also look for Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story, John Waters’ director’s cut of Cry-Baby, and Audrey Tautou in A Very Long Engagement. A certain kind of couch potato will appreciate a boxed set of Bill & Ted movies, along with the cult fave Freaked. From Criterion, there’s the enjoyable 1948 Rex Harrison comedy Unfaithfully Yours; Warner Bros. offers a Gene Hackman set with the underrated Night Moves.