Holy Smoke
**.9 GM
Starring: Kate Winslet, Harvey Keitel, Pam Grier, Dan Wylie, Tim Robertson

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I dig Kate Winslet.

Maybe it's a bias of mine, but something about her is really cool. True, I got sick of her squeaking for "Jack! Jack! Jack!" all the time during "Titanic," but she is part of the reason that film worked for me (the other part being the realization of the immense tragedy this was for all of these people - all of that graphic disaster footage actually HAPPENED. It kept me up at night for a while). Then again, "Titanic" and bits and pieces of "Jude" are the only things I've seen her in... and I can't say I was loving "Jude."

She's pretty good and pretty interesting in this film as an Australian traveling abroad and having an emotional revolution upon visiting a guru and deciding never to return home. Needless to say, maw and paw don't like this, so they pretend paw is dying to get her back, and hire Harvey Keitel, professional cult exiter - the best there is at what he does, bub - to unbrainwash her... or is it rebrainwashing back into her previous lifestyle? That sets up the clash between cynicism and faith, skepticism and devotion. In the end, it seems that neither side has the monopoly on the truth, and just being KIND is the way to live. Everything else will fall into place. I really like that message.

It'll be interesting to see how people react to this film. Whether the more agnostic types will see Harvey Keitel as the crusader for truth and justice and Kate as a misguided freak, if religious types will identify more with Kate's spirituality over Harvey's rational approaches - but eventually be turned off because of Kate's overt sense of freedom with her body, or if everyone will just see this as Director Jane Campion saying all men need to be tamed and dressed in drag in order to make them worthwhile and womyn are all goddesses that should freely use sex as a disciplinary weapon. Some feminist frustration is readily apparent in the dialog, specifically Harvey calling Kate a "man-hater," and Kate's annoyed response that any criticism of a man is taken as hatred.

I think I like more of what the movie was trying to say - in part, at least - rather than the way it was said. Aside from the occasional intense stare, there ain't much erotic about Harvey Keitel. I'm also not quite sure what the recent fascination with pissing scenes is all about. Kate Winslet pisses herself out of the blue here (apparently as a 'cleansing metaphor') while naked, no less. I walked out of the theater not feeling all that good about the film... but the more I reflect, the more I appreciate and like what it was trying to get across. Films haven't done that very often to me lately. Cool.

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