Fuck (2005)

It’s funny and it’s clever…

Scriptwriters use it in Oscar winning movies. Novelists use it in best sellers. Comedians use it in sell out shows. Hip-hop artists base entire careers on it. Hell, even Presidents have used it to emphasise a point. It first appeared in print in the 1470s, has been in the dictionary since the late 16th century and has been used to great effect by classic novelists including James Joyce, Robert Burns and DH Lawrence. And yet the word ‘fuck’ is still one of the most controversial in the English language, eliciting responses of humour, anger or apathy depending on your point of view.

And on this universal truth documentarian Steve Anderson (The Big Empty) hangs his film, a 93-minute dissection on the origins, use and controversy surrounding the F-word. At turns humorous, thought-provoking and, yes, even shocking (the views of America’s conservative faction are jaw dropping indeed), Anderson attempts to strike a balance but its clear that he has used the word more than once.

Much of the movie features talking heads with a huge variety of individuals, from creatives to politicians and moral crusaders. There are those who love it, including journalist Hunter S Thompson, filmmaker Kevin Smith, rapper Ice T and musician Alanis Morissette. There are those who think its mere utterance is the harbinger of the apocalypse, including Jan La Rue from ‘Concerned Women of America’, conservative statesman Alan Keynes and musician Pat Boone. But, whatever their opinion, they are all passionate and entertaining in their views.

From the serious debate about whether using the word is protected by the First Amendment upholding free speech, to a look at its increasingly common use in the media (did you know, for example, that HBO show Deadwood has approximately 69.3 uses of that particular expletive per episode), the film really does provide a view of what impact the word has had on every aspect of our lives and the changing attitudes towards it. We’ve certainly come a long way since Elvis’s hips were blamed for the breakdown of American society.

Apart from a slight loss of focus when exploring the graphic visual connotations of the saying, Fuck is an interesting piece of film-making, bravely confronting a word that is both a widely used noun, verb and adjective and one of our last remaining linguistic taboos. Perhaps South Park‘s Cartman sums up the tone of the doc most succinctly with his insight into swearing. ‘What’s the big deal?’ he poses. ‘It doesn’t hurt anybody’. That said, don’t – whatever you do – let you parents see this film.

4 stars

Hunter S Thompson, Kevin Smith, Drew Carey, Billy Connolly, Pat Boone
Director Steve Anderson
Certificate tba
Distributor ICA Films
Running Time 1hr 33mins
Opened February 13 (ICA Cinema, London), Key UK Cities from March