Arrested for art in Canada? Believe it. Quebec filmmaker and special effects wiz Rémy Couture landed in hot water a few years ago after an anonymous online complaint from abroad flagged his work as not only obscene, but also as morally corrupting. Arrested and charged in 2009, Couture's much-talked-about, much-delayed trial is set to begin in December.
Morally corrupting? What is this, the 1920s?
At issue are a series of short horror films that Couture produced back in 2005 and posted on a website called "Inner Depravity." Like many horror films, Couture's movies featured a masked killer on a rampage, murdering and torturing his victims in all manner of horrible ways. The shorts were particularly violent, but the freelance special effects and make-up artist intended the project to be a showcase of his capabilities. When it comes to his industry, the gorier the work is, the better.
The SFX artist had reason to be proud of his work; it was drawing views from all over the world, including his native Canada, the United States, and even Germany. However, that's where the problem started. An anonymous police tip in Germany drew the attention of INTERPOL, and before Couture knew it, the Montreal police showed up at his door. Couture was charged with moral corruption and the production and distribution of obscene material. Talk about suffering for your art.
Are some of the effects featured in Couture's films extremely gory and in poor taste? Probably. But since when has the government been the designated arbiters of good taste in Canada? Unless the films were actively hurting folks or inciting people to go out and murder each other, how can they be called morally corrupting?
And whose morals was Couture corrupting, exactly? Yours? This writer's? Canada's? Those of the oft-cited "children"? On a website intended to drum up support (SupportRemy.com), the filmmaker maintains that all of the offending material in question was situated behind a viewer discretion disclaimer that warned viewers about the graphic nature of what they were about to see. It was always intended for mature audiences only.
Couture's case has drawn interest worldwide. The filmmaker has won support from artists and art communities in Canada and beyond, and has even won the support of effects legend Tom Savini, famous for his gruesome work on movies like "Dawn of the Dead" and "Friday the 13th." Couture's story has even provided the basis for a documentary called "Art/Crime" which has screened at a few Canadian film festivals.
Nobody is quite sure what the future holds for Couture, but the groundswell of support will surely help his cause. In the meantime, he will continue to pay tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees. By the time his trial rolls around in December, it will have been nearly four years since Couture was charged. The wheels of justice turn slowly, but hopefully they will turn in his favour.
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