Russ Piccotti returned to City Council recently with more questions about "Blue Valentine," a film which includes footage that was shot in Carbondale.
Russ Piccotti returned to City Council recently with more questions about Blue Valentine, a film which includes footage that was shot in Carbondale.
Piccotti, who currently resides at 53 South Church St., is still upset that the city allowed scenes for the sexually-explicit film — which he described as “filthy” — to be shot in the house where he grew up at 141 Park St., and at locations in that neighborhood.
City Clerk Michele Bannon told Piccotti in February that the agreement was between the filmmakers and former Community Development director Cindy Klenk, who owned the house at the time. Bannon explained that the city didn’t issue any permits to the filmmakers and that city officials weren’t involved in the decision. As for Klenk, she sold the property last summer.
When council president Kathleen Connor pointed out that the film’s co-star, Michelle Williams of Dawson’s Creek fame, earned an Oscar nomination for her performance, Piccotti said he wasn’t impressed.
“She should be put in jail for what she did in that movie!” he responded.
During council’s meeting on Monday night, March 21, Piccotti once again addressed what he described as the “filth” of the film’s graphic sexual content.
Blue Valentine was originally slapped by the Motion Picture Association of America with an NC-17 rating, the modern-day equivalent of an X-rating, but the filmmakers appealed and the MPAA reversed its decision. The movie was released with an R-rating, but Piccotti made it clear that he felt it was more deserving of the NC-17. He said the film amounted to little more than pornography.
“It doesn’t get any pornier than that one,” he offered.
“The things that were done to [Williams] in that movie,” he added as he shook his head in disbelief, his words trailing off.
He wanted to know why film crews were given liberty to block off portions of Park St. and some of its side streets in the summer of 2009 to shoot the movie.
Connor said the filmmakers have the right to make the kind of movie they want under the First Amendment guarantee of free speech.
“Everyone has their own opinions,” she stated.
“That doesn’t mean we agree with it in any way, shape or form,” she added, “and it’s not that we don’t sympathize with what you’re saying.”
“But there is freedom,” Connor noted.
City solicitor Atty. Frank Ruggiero concurred, pointing out that freedom of speech is “one of the deepest, most entrenched rights we have within the Bill of Rights.”
As for the filmmakers being able to use city streets to make their movie, Ruggiero said they were protected in doing so by “the same rights that we rely upon to protect us every day.” He said those basic freedoms are “the foundation upon which we do everything.”
Like Connor, he assured Piccotti, “It’s not that your point isn’t well-taken.”
City resident Alfred Esposito stated that, constitutional rights notwithstanding, council still could — and should — take action regarding any future filming that takes place in the city.
“Pass an ordinance that anyone who films here has to pay to come into Carbondale,” he offered.
In another matter at the meeting, Bannon informed council that there doesn’t seem to be funding available for the ambulance service that the city has been operating under a program initiated by Mayor Justin Taylor.
Councilman Dr. Joseph Marzzacco, a critic of the program from the start, said he was still perplexed by the administration’s insistence on continuing it — especially if the city won’t be able to generate any revenues from it.
“I still don’t get it,” he commented.