Home  Contact Phil


Phil Mellows is a freelance journalist living in Brighton


 Lovelace - Someone in Love


Directed by Rob Epstein, Jeffrey Friedman (2013)

Like Someone in Love
Directed by Abbas Kiarostami (2012)

In June 1974, at the height of her infamy, Linda Lovelace turned up at Royal Ascot wearing a see-through blouse – and nothing underneath. Ascot’s rigorous and ridiculous dress code stipulates that women must wear a hat in the Royal Enclosure and even defines the width of shoulder straps (at least one inch), but doesn’t mention brassieres.

The heart of the establishment was shocked and rocked. The sexual revolution was bobbing under the nose of our own dear queen, and Linda Lovelace, bold and unperturbed by the fuss, was briefly a bit of a hero.

There’s a scene in Lovelace when she’s just made Deep Throat and is posing nervously for some publicity shots. To relax her the nice photographer asks her about her role in the film. She relates the rather jejune plot and he says, no, tell me about your character.

Linda (Amanda Seyfried) comes alive. Her eyes glitter for the camera as she identifies with a woman who is revelling in a new-found sexual freedom.

Yet, as this film makes abundantly and horrifyingly clear, she was very far from free. Husband and ‘manager’ Chuck Traynor (Peter Sarsgaard) forces her not only to take the persona of Linda Lovelace and go into pornography, he pimps her out to other men, even leaving her to be gang-raped as he exits counting the cash.

In an effective device Lovelace tells the story twice. First we see Linda’s rise to fame with only a faint suspicion that something is awry. Then, pivoting around a lie-detector test her publisher has asked her to take after writing her biography, Ordeal, it shows us what was really going on, from Traynor raping her on their wedding night to her eventual escape to a ‘normal’ life.

Linda’s 17-day career as a porn star is framed not only by her relationship with the creepy, disturbed Chuck but by another oppressive relationship - with her mother (an unrecognisable Sharon Stone).

Her flight from the latter is a leap from the frying pan into to fire. But more than that, the film reveals her mother’s puritanical Christianity to be complicit with its apparent enemy.

Among many shocking scenes is one in which Linda begs her mother to take her in, to give her a few days break from Traynor’s beatings. She coldly refuses. Linda must obey her husband. So she throws her daughter back into the fire.

Their eventual reconciliation, which comes only after everyone knows what obeying her husband actually means, is unconvincing. And you can’t help feeling that in conforming to a traditional family life with another mustachioed husband Linda has lost, as well as gained, something.

Sexual liberation is great. But without women’s liberation it’s riven with contradiction, warped by exploitation. And it’s women’s oppression in wider society, not just the sex industry, that’s the problem.

Seyfried gives a kaleidoscopic performance as Linda, showing us every fragment of a woman whose identity has been shattered. At the beginning of the lie detector test she’s asked “Are you Linda Lovelace?” “Can we start with an easier question?” she replies.

It’s a tricky one for any sex worker. Marilyn Chambers, the 70s’ second most famous porn star (who, worryingly, also married Chuck Traynor) later described the feeling of being “hollowed out” by the profession.

In Abbas Kiarostami’s Like Someone in Love, now on limited release in the UK, Akiko (Rin Takanashi) is a young prostitute in Tokyo struggling to reconcile her night job with a ‘normal’ life with boyfriend Noriaki (Ryo Kase).

Like Linda she’s not only had to split her identity but is oppressed by both lives. Her pimp insists she puts work first yet Noriaki doesn’t offer much of an alternative. He’s another disturbed male, believing he must marry Akiko to ‘protect’ her his aggressive, over-bearing approach suggests she’ll be under his thumb as much is she is the pimp’s.

The twist here is that Akiko ironically finds comfort and safety in the company of a client, the ageing writer and translator Takashi Watanabe (Tadashi Okuno). It’s unclear whether he even wants to have sex with her, although he is touchingly disappointed when she refuses to share his home-made shrimp soup.

It reminds her of home, you see, and like Linda, that’s another life she needs to escape.

In setting Like Someone in Love in Japan the Iranian director gets a chance to play with the bright lights and polished surfaces of Tokyo. As Akiko takes a long taxi-ride through the Tokyo night it’s like she’s swimming around giddily inside a fruit machine.

As we’ve come to expect from Kiarostami, it’s not the plot that keeps you interested but a rich puzzling texture embroidered with startling images that keeps you clinging on.

The opening scene is simply brilliant, the fixed camera staring passively across a busy bar. You can only hear one end of a dialogue, and you’re not sure what you’re supposed to be looking at. Then suddenly a woman sitting at a table on the right suddenly leans backwards and looks into the lens and you realise that you’re the character speaking. Stunning.

In Mr Watanabe’s flat Akiko is distracted by a painting she remembers from her childhood. He explains it’s a girl teaching a parrot to talk.

“We always thought the parrot was teaching the girl,” says Akiko. Such is oppression.

Back to Reviews


Writing... Journalism... Research... Awards Judging... Pub Business Advice... Pub Crawls
Contact Phil