Cursing the Word

Friday, December 1, 2006

Steve Anderson's "F***" is a documentary on the F-word that manages to amuse superficially until it moves into its seventh hour, at which point it grows wearisome.

Oh, I jest: It's a mere 90-some minutes long; it only feels like seven hours. But 90 minutes of talking heads such as comedian George Carlin and conservative commentator Michael Medved dealing with the F-word in history and culture goes a long way.

Among the revelations: The first use of the word in a mainstream movie was a mumbled curse in the football sequence in "M*A*S*H"; the word's origin remains mysterious, but it is definitely not a corruption of a medieval designation involving unlawful carnal knowledge, as many people think.

More could have been done in the film with Norman Mailer's early attempts to get the word into print in "The Naked and the Dead" (he settled for something comically absurd but still unprintable) and less with liberal paranoia about the Bush administration's war against the word.

Still, this is probably the only movie you'll ever see featuring both Ben Bradlee and porn star Tera Patrick, though unfortunately not in the same scene.

-- Stephen Hunter

F*** R, 93 minutes Contains profanity. At Landmark's E Street Cinema.


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