Lipstick (1976)

Lipstick (1976) Directed by Lamont Johnson

Less is worse and more is better, at least that’s what the sensationalist methodology of Lamont Johnson’s randomly violent Lipstick believes. But to the misfortune of the serious material that seeks to dismantle judicial and social flaws in modern America, those methods simply don’t quite work. It’s a sleek exploitation film that fleshes out urgent questions about the role of institutions in defending the vulnerable, such as the spectacularly gorgeous fashion model Chris McCormick – played by Margaux Hemingway, then a sensation in the fashion modeling scene – who is the victim of a barbaric rape by the annoyingly suave music teacher (Chris Sarandon) of her little sister Kathy (Mariel Hemingway). The scandalously baroque handling of the film’s most controversial lengthy rape sequence is more sadistic than outright terrifying; this raises speculation as to the earnestness of whether or not what we’re watching fulfills its role as a social critique. However, the Hemingway sisters – both in their acting debuts – are morally convinced of the dramatic legitimacy of the subject matter, so their profoundly affecting performances reverberate more with the solemnity of the tragic events than with Johnson’s hyperbolic style. It’s as much a courtroom drama as it is a rape-revenge flick, but it commits excesses that lend themselves to being provocative, not intellectual. The irony is that you remember more the fetishistic violence conducted by a groovy musical cacophony than the message itself; that should elucidate to you how frivolous it is as a film.


Matteo Bedon

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Editor and Official Film Critic at

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