Yesterday, Mail art critic Christopher Hart launched an attack on the new Lars Von Trier film Antichrist (above), which is currently shocking, boring and mystifying UK cinema audiences in equal measure with its explicit sex, baffling visual metaphors, genital mutilation and fine acting from Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg. "What," Hart demands to know in his headline, "does it takes for a film to get banned these days?".
So far, so Mail. Then comes the punchline: Hart hasn't actually seen Antichrist, and has no intention of doing so. Which immediately brings to mind Mary Whitehouse and various other misguided crusaders, who didn't watch most of the early '80s works they were condemning.
Thankfully, we now live in more enlightened times, in which the British Board of Film Classification take a far more level-headed, realistic approach. Yet back then, such moral panic, fuelled by The Daily Mail and their 'Ban Video Sadism Now' headline, led to police raids on video-rental shops, the widespread confiscation of various films - and, in the worst case, an 18-month jail sentence for one distributor of the so-called video-nasty Nightmares In A Damaged Brain. Jailed, for distributing a film! I wrote an article about the video nasty phenomenon here, a few years back, if you're intrigued and/or need reminding.
Feast your eyes on Christopher Hart's online article here. There is no finer comedy. I'm tempted to believe he's actually Christopher Morris.
I contributed a comment to The Mail's "debate", but it clearly didn't survive "moderation". So here it is again:
Dear Mr Hart,
I haven't read your article, and neither shall I. However, your name, position as an art critic and affiliation with The Mail are more than enough to tell me that it will contain snobbery, the word 'amoral' and ill-informed hysteria which might irreparably scar my brain. Thank you for the warm rush of '80s witch-hunt nostalgia, if only for the duration of your no-doubt ludicrous article.