The Money Shot: Cinema, Sin and Censorship

Jane Mills,
The Money Shot: Cinema, Sin and Censorship.
Pluto Press, Annandale 2001.
ISBN  1 86403 142 5
255 pp
A$32.95 (pb)
(Review copy supplied by Pluto Press)

Uploaded 25 July 2001
The “money shot” – so-called because it is the most expensive shot in the movie –  is the sequence in a porn film which depicts the “male ejaculatory climax” (xix). In this book, however, the phrase is used more generally, to refer to any shot or sequence about which the author can say: “my toes curl with pleasure, and I give my mind, body and soul up to the plot.”(xviii) She takes a visceral delight in films, enjoying images and sounds and narratives, and conveying this pleasure in way that is both challenging and inviting.

But my initial expectations were that this book might be relevant to a current concern of mine – research about censorship of film and the internet. I discovered I was quite wrong. First, it is not about research at all: there is no new information here, derived from poring over films or archival records. Rather it is a complex polemic about the place of film in society – so its targets include the “cinesnob” and patriarchal ideology as well as censorship. There is a clever and resourceful discussion of the complexities of the censorship debate, and a clear and forceful presentation of opposition to patriarchal ideology and the denigration of mass culture.

The argument is well-made and I already agree with most of what this author says, so why do I find it hard to like the book? One reason is its relentlessly cheerful and chatty style – like a film studies version of a Butlin’s holiday camp, where you are simply forced to enjoy yourself! In the cover blurb, Margaret Pomeranz recognises in the author a “fierce intelligence, passionate advocacy and sense of humour”, and again I must agree. I just found the style eventually exhausting. I wonder, for instance, whether those who do not agree would have the patience to continue to read when they are being so continuously exhorted. In particular, students – who may well start out from the mass culture position that the author so deprecates – are unlikely to take kindly to being intellectually bludgeoned in this way… I wonder if they would have the patience and tolerance to see the book to its conclusion.

Another is the author’s constant self-promotion.  I do not subscribe to the school of thought that excludes the personal from respectable writing – autobiographical detail can often enrich a work, and can make abstractions more accessible. The opening of chapter one is a case in point – drawing on the author’s own life experience. But Australians are brought up to be self-deprecatory, and to expect the same from others: we allow blurb writers and reviewers to refer to the outstanding career and important position of a writer, but we expect writers to be more modest. So by the sixth time the body of the text included mention of the author’s exalted position at AFTRS, I was quite pissed off. B.Ruby Rich calls Jane Mills her ‘favourite know-it-all’ – the sort of back-handed compliment that expresses some of my own ambivalence.

Do not let my comments put you off:- read and judge for yourself. At the very least, a book that centres on the Australian experience, but discusses Australian film culture unapologetically within a global context, can stimulate much-needed debate. One of the points on which I very much agree with Jane Mills is the need for media education in schools, to produce a film-literate audience, that can respond intelligently to the smallest local production as well as to the latest Hollywood blockbuster. If this book manages to contribute to such an outcome, then more power to her elbow!

Ina Bertrand

About the Author

Ina Bertrand

About the Authors

Ina Bertrand

Ina Bertrand is Principal Fellow, Cinema Programme, School of Culture and Communication, University of Melbourne, Australia. She was foundation editor of Screening the Past.View all posts by Ina Bertrand →