Art/Crime (2011)

Art/CrimeDirected by Frédérick Maheux

The first time a special effects artist ever had to testify that his work was fake was in 1971 when Carlo Rambaldi was accused of using real dogs in the infamous canine vivisection scene in Lucio Fulci’s A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin. The effect of dogs split open with their hearts still beating was deemed so realistic that Rambaldi had to show up in court with the prop dogs to prove that no animals were harmed. The case was eventually thrown out.

Now, 40 years later, a similarly bizarre court case is happening in Quebec. Remy Couture a Montreal based makeup effects artist was charged in 2009 with “corruption of morals” after a complaint was made about images found on Couture’s website “Inner Depravity”. The accusation, originating from Germany, was communicated to the Montreal police by Interpol, and given that the the shocking images involved the torture and murder of a young boy, the police felt compelled to investigate. After tricking Couture by posing as clients requesting Halloween makeups, he was arrested and taken into custody, and his apartment was searched. Almost immediately the police found Couture’s workshop, filled with prop limbs, heads, fake blood and other makeup supplies. This evidence, coupled with Couture’s insistence that the images were works of fiction, led the police to release him the same day. He was later charged, and the court case is still ongoing.

The documentary film Art/Crime seeks to make the case known more broadly and to investigate ideas of art, obscenity, and creative freedom. In it we learn that after the police discovered Couture was a makeup specialist, they didn’t even bother to meet the boy whom they feared had been harmed. The mother of the boy, who had willingly let her son participate in Couture’s art project in order to feed his interest in drama and to teach him about the difference between reality and fiction, even offered to have the police over to her house, but they declined. It is clear that the police and prosecutor’s interest in this case has little to do with anyone’s safety and is more politically motivated.

Fantasia 2011 Review
Unfortunately the film doesn’t have anything new to say on the broader subject of criminal obscenity and doesn’t delve into the history of faux snuff films or legal precedents such as those involving Ruggero Deodato being charged as a result of Cannibal Holocaust, Charlie Sheen reporting the Guinea Pig films to the FBI, or August Underground director Fred Vogel having his films confiscated by Canadian border guards. Art/Crime, while having a title indicative of a broader analysis of the issues, remains myopically focused on Remy Couture’s case.

The documentary is primarily of the talking heads variety, and all of the interviewees, which include Inner Depravity models, other Quebec artists, film pundits such as Kier-La Janisse, and Rue Morgue chief Rodrigo Gudino, all come out siding with Couture. The film is extremely one-sided, but in a case like this in which there was clearly no criminal act of violence committed, it’s hard to feel anything but compassion for Couture, who has been vilified as a hardore pornographer in the press and who, two years after his arrest, still finds his freedom in limbo due to a postponed court date. Fans of horror will surely agree with Gudino’s assessment that “As a society we’ve evolved from actually killing people for fun to making believe people are dying for fun. I think this is a step in the right direction.

While the film itself is extremely low budget, it’s clear that this is an issue the director feels strongly about, and for that reason, along with the charisma of the tattooed, mohawked, and extremely sympathetic Couture, this is a film worth recommending, if only to raise awareness about the travesty of justice that is ironically occurring in the same city where adoring Fantasia audiences line up to watch horror films just as gory and realistic as those that may yet put Couture in a jail cell.

3 out of 5

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