Sunday, May 21, 2000

'Dirty Pictures' uses plenty of artistic license

By John Kiesewetter
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Although Showtime calls Dirty Pictures a “true story,” Dennis Barrie admits that screenwriter Ilene Chaiken fictionalized and exaggerated scenes or circumstances.

        For example:

        • A bribe: Dirty Pictures shows an unidentified man twice offering Mr. Barrie a bribe — first to shut down the exhibit, and later not to testify at the trial.

        Contrary to the film, Mr. Barrie says he knew the man, but he refuses to reveal his name. He says the man approached him in a parking garage downtown (as shown in the film) and at a social gathering.

        The movie depicts the man's second visit at the Barrie home, where he flashed a $100,000 check. (Showtime publicity in January set the amount at $350,000; Mr. Barrie has not discussed the amount.)

        Mr. Barrie was never handed a check, but a man “did make me an offer,” he said. “There's a lot of artistic license in that scene.”

        • Refusing to testify: After the attempted bribe, the movie shows Mr. Barrie telling attorneys H. Louis Sirkin (David Huband) and Marc D. Mezibov (Judah Katz) during the trial that he won't testify “to cut my losses.”

        Mr. Barrie says he never said that, nor considered doing that.

        “It's part of a dramatic device,” he says. “There was no way I could even contemplate doing it. I always knew I'd have to testify.”

        • Arguing with his wife: A scene in the film showing the Barries (James Woods, Diana Scarwid) arguing about the graphic pictures was fiction.

        “But it (Mapplethorpe) produced lots of tension within our family, and the people around us. When your whole life is spent in 16-20 hours a day with attorneys and judges and ... doing interviews, your life changes. The stress levels increased dramatically. Our lives ceased to be our own,” says Mr. Barrie, who has since divorced.

        • No federal court: Dirty Pictures skips one crucial event the opening weekend of the exhibit — U.S. District Court Judge Carl Rubin conducting a rare Sunday morning session to order Cincinnati police not to close down, or interfere with, the seven-week Mapplethorpe exhibit.

        • Simon Leis fooled: Only Tristate residents will shake their head at a notion that a TV reporter could hoodwink Sheriff Simon Leis. According to the script, the reporter showed only Robert Mapplethorpe's photographs of flowers to Mr. Leis when asking his opinion of Mr. Mapplethorpe's work. Yeah, sure.

        • Meeting Monty: Monty Lobb, former Citizens for Community Values president, says Mr. Barrie didn't track him down on a Cincinnati street corner, as depicted in the film. “I've never met Dennis Barrie,” says Mr. Lobb, now a Columbus resident and chief of staff for Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell.

        The former Princeton Board of Education member also says he never held a punching bag for Mr. Leis, as show in the docudrama.

        • Jury deliberation: Only the eight jurors will know how inaccurate the Dirty Pictures portrayal is of their discussion. Producer Michael Manheim says he “took a certain amount of liberty with the jurors. There was dramatic speculation about the issues that it raises. It's an extrapolation.”

        Director Frank Pierson, who won an Oscar for Dog Day Afternoon, intercut jury deliberations throughout the film. Viewers may feel cheated because Dirty Pictures doesn't show jurors coming to any consensus. (They voted 7-1 to acquit on both charges.)

        Despite the flaws, Mr. Barrie says the film “does the city justice,” he says.

        “It's a thoughtful film, which takes it beyond Cincinnati into a larger arena. It's something for Cincinnati to be proud of.”


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