F. (2005)

Genres - Culture & Society  |   Sub-Genres - Linguistics, Sociology  |   Release Date - Nov 10, 2006 (USA - Limited)  |   Run Time - 93 min.  |   Countries - United States  |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Derek Armstrong

The title of Steve Anderson's documentary would send shivers of delight down the spine of Lenny Bruce, the free-speech poster boy who receives multiple shout-outs in Anderson's film. Perhaps more so than any other title, it leaves the moral values crowd scrambling for how to say it without actually saying it. (At least in print, one can employ a simple asterisk in place of the "u" and be done with it). F*ck is an entertaining and funny pastiche of interviews, archival footage and animation, and indeed leaves no stone unturned in determining out how the world's most commonplace obscenity rose to such prominence. In this process, Anderson's film considers the word's tremendous contextual and grammatical versatility; its tendency to immediately grab the attention of the listener; its pervasively sexual connotation; and, quite simply, the fact that the physical expulsion of the sound from the mouth feels gratifying. Of course, not everyone finds the word cathartic, which is where conservative talking heads like Dennis Prager and Pat Boone come in -- Boone even confessing he sometimes uses his own last name as a substitute ("Oh...Boone!"). Anderson's views on the subject seem pretty clear -- he wouldn't make a documentary about the word if he were concerned about contributing to its proliferation. But he smartly doesn't make this stance in the movie, giving equal time to those who abhor "f-bombs" as those who adore them. Although F*ck tiptoes up to some scholarly ideas, it stays mostly middlebrow -- which leaves certain passages feeling redundant, or too obvious by half. But the priceless observations of the interview subjects should produce far more grins than frowns in most audiences. F*ck falls short of true importance, but it does have some pretty compelling political relevance in a climate where increased censorship has rolled back some of the freedoms Bruce fought for.