LIPSTICK – DVD review

Movies about rape are almost always losing propositions. If you depict a rape onscreen, then you run the risk of sensationalizing the act and titillating the audience. However, if the rape occurs offscreen, then you run the risk of downplaying the significance of the rape itself.

Director Lamont Johnson’s “Lipstick” chooses to depict one rape onscreen and another one offscreen. Since it is such a bad movie, it manages to both sensationalize/titillate and downplay rape. Also, since it barely provides a context for why the rapist would do what he does, the film is never more than a succession of unpleasant business that unfolds before your eyes.

Yes, it’s true that many rapes occur suddenly without the victim knowing the attacker, but a movie about those kinds of situations could focus on the psychological history of the rapist. We don’t get that with “Lipstick”. Instead, we see Gordon Stuart (Chris Sarandon, “Dog Day Afternoon”) set his eyes upon Chris McCormick (Margaux Hemingway), a fashion model, and then we see him rape her in her apartment after she lets him in for a parent-teacher meeting (Chris is the legal guardian of her sister Kathy, played by Margaux’s real-life sister Mariel). Since the movie provides almost no background concerning Stuart, we don’t see any reason for him to lose his cool and think about raping a woman.

The film’s problems could’ve been rectified had the screenplay focused on Chris and Kathy’s grief. Instead, we get an extended sequence featuring Stuart’s criminal trial for raping Chris. The trial, like the rest of the movie, has nothing meaningful to say about rape, and it is not even exciting to watch for the fun that legal fireworks usually generate. After all this tediousness, we see Kathy approaching Stuart (one of her teachers at school), placing herself in danger. Of course, Stuart goes on to rape Kathy, and Chris decides to take the law into her own hands by shooting Stuart.

Yes, I’ve basically ruined the movie for you, but you don’t really want to see this movie anyway. It’s a sordid mess that makes you feel dirty and not at all enlightened or cathartic about anything. In fact, you might feel cheapened by the trite ways in which “Lipstick” glosses over the substance of rape and focuses on trying to arouse extreme passions in viewers.

Video:
The 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen doesn’t look very good. Colors are weak and a tad faded, and it’s obvious that the print wasn’t restored or cleaned. You can see a lot of grain, dust, and speckling, and you can also see a couple of scratches on the print. Also, several sequences look wobbly, slightly water-damaged, or slightly warped. There’s no vitality at all.

Audio:
The dynamic range of the Dolby Digital 2.0 mono English audio track is rather limited, so the only things that don’t sound a tad distorted are the actors’ voices. There aren’t any bass extensions or higher frequencies that help to expand the “naturalness” of the mix, so what you get is a kitschy, indifferent audio experience.

There’s a DD 2.0 mono French dub track. Optional English subtitles as well as optional English closed captions support the audio.

Extras:
As Margaux and Mariel’s grandfather Ernest wrote, “Our Nada, who art in Nada, Nada be thy name…”

–Miscellaneous–
A glossy insert provides chapter listings.

Film Value:
“Lipstick” is an ugly, nasty movie that doesn’t have anything to say about rape or sex (male-female) relations. The film has several lurid sequences that seem to imply that a woman who is “too provocative” is partially responsible for her being raped. The film also thinks that vigilante justice is acceptable. Didn’t the filmmakers know that two wrongs don’t make a right???

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