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Holy Smoke!
Holy Smoke
Actors: Kate Winslet, Pam Grier, Harvey Keitel, Genevieve Lemon, Tim Robertson
Genres: Indie & Art House, Comedy, Drama
R     2000     1hr 55min

Kate Winslet (TITANIC, SENSE AND SENSIBILITY) and Harvey Keitel (U-571, PULP FICTION) add scintillating performances to a seductive, darkly hilarious motion picture that's met with overwhelming critical acclaim! While on a...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Kate Winslet, Pam Grier, Harvey Keitel, Genevieve Lemon, Tim Robertson
Creators: Dion Beebe, Angelo Badalamenti
Genres: Indie & Art House, Comedy, Drama
Sub-Genres: Indie & Art House, Romantic Comedies, Religion
Studio: Miramax
Format: DVD - Color,Widescreen - Closed-captioned
DVD Release Date: 08/08/2000
Original Release Date: 01/01/1999
Theatrical Release Date: 01/01/1999
Release Year: 2000
Run Time: 1hr 55min
Screens: Color,Widescreen
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 13
MPAA Rating: R (Restricted)
Languages: English, French, French

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Member Movie Reviews

Vernon P. (Merlin)
Reviewed on 1/20/2009...
This story is about the relationship between a young woman (Winslet) and the man (Keitel) hired to get her out of an India guru's "cult." From the very beginning everything goes wrong, from his point-of-view. His chosen assistant can't make it on time. The replacement offered by his "local contacts" is a moron. Then the young woman arrives early - and to top everything off, she's smart enough to see through his games! For every break-through he has with her, she breaks him down too.

Very, very, little is said about the fact that what he does is illegal in nearly every civilized country in the world. By the end of the film, he should be in jail 15 ways from Sunday, but he's allowed to leave like nothing illegal happened. That, to me, is the most disappointing aspect of the entire movie.

As far as the acting, story, and production are concerned, this is a high-quality movie. If you like movies similar to "The Hitchhiker", "Breakdown", or "Death Proof" then you should like this.

Movie Reviews

Fascinating and thought-provoking
Marla | California | 01/23/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I saw the film in Los Angeles in January 2000.Ruth discovers in India an aspect of life different from anything she has known back home in Australia. Her family members mistakenly believe she has been brainwashed, hire a "cult exit counselor", and trick her into returning home for the deprogramming procedure.Director Jane Campion has said she hopes the film will prompt viewers to question Western thinking about commitment and illusion in the spiritual life. She says she doesn't tell the story in a simple way, and deliberately doesn't give the audience any solutions."Simple" it is not. Complex characters engage in a battle of wills, each person losing something, but gaining much in the process. Betrayal, humor, and sensuality are all elements of this fascinating, engrossing film.Ms. Winslet delivers a very powerful, extraordinary performance. Critics have described her as "funny, erotic, scary, touching, real and utterly mesmerizing." Brava to her for continuing to choose characters of depth and complexity.Holy Smoke! is beautifully photographed, interesting, amusing and though-provoking - a considerable achievement for all involved."
Can Kate deprogram the deprogrammer?
Dennis Littrell | SoCal | 03/15/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Kate Winslet plays Ruth Barron, a young Australian woman who goes to India and becomes smitten with the touch of a charismatic guru, so much so that she changes her name and forsakes her family to stay in India and attend to and worship the guru. Her parents become alarmed. Her mother goes to India to trick her into coming back to Australia so that she can be deprogrammed by a professional from the United States that they have hired (P.J. Waters as played by Harvey Keitel).

What director Jane Campion does with this once familiar theme is most interesting. She puts the deprogrammer to the test, so to speak, and initiates a struggle of will between the deprogrammer and his young charge. The key scene arrives as Ruth comes naked into P.J.'s arms in order to test his professionalism (and her sexual power). I don't know about you but I think a naked and passionate Kate Winslet would test any man's motivation and make him think twice about what he really wants to do.

The psychological idea behind the story is this question, What is the nature of the guru's hold on his flock? Is it spiritual or is it profane? Do the young women who follow him desire him as an alpha male or is it spiritual deliverance they seek? Naturally Ruth believes the latter and the deprogrammer the former. But what is the deprogammer's motivation? Is this just a job for him or does he feel he is helping to free his clients from some kind of mental slavery? Or is he just another sort of phony guru himself?

Keitel in black hair and black moustache and devil's mini goatee dressed in black with a menacing look and a lot of physical energy (despite being 60-years-old when this film was released) contrasts sharply with Winslet's youthful beauty and beguiling voluptuousness. Strength of character is something Kate Winslet brings to any role, even including her outstanding performance as Ophelia in Kenneth Branagh's Hamlet (1996), a role that is usually played wiltingly. Here one senses that her strong will and determination are going to be quite a match for the deprogrammer who gives himself three days alone with her to break her attachment to the guru.

Two questions: One, if he is successful, will that just mean that she has transferred her allegiance from the Indian guru to him? Will it mean that his psychological strength is greater than that of the guru in far-off India? Two, in what respect is such a forced confinement with someone who is in physical control going to lead to a variant of the "Stockholm syndrome" experienced by some women held hostage, e.g., flight attendants on hijacked planes, and the famous case of Patty Hearst? Will the captive become enamored of her captor?

Campion handles this most interesting theme by focusing on the sexual and carnal nature of the relationships. The test of will between P.J. and Ruth becomes a question of Can she seduce him and thereby strip him of his professionalism? The movie is candid about sex and sexuality in a way that emphasizes the power dynamics of sexual relationships. There is some full frontal nudity and the sex scenes are steamy beyond what one usually sees in an R-rated film. (If seeing Kate Winslet naked might offend you, I recommend you close your eyes.)

Harvey Keitel did an outstanding job in a very demanding role and was entirely convincing (despite being a little too old for the part); but as usual Kate Winslet completely took over the film with her commanding countenance, her superior acting skills, her great concentration and her mesmerizing charisma. If there is a better, more captivating young actress working today, I don't know who she is.

Her role here might be compared with her performance in Hideous Kinky (1998) in which she goes to Morocco to find enlightenment among the Sufis. That is a more charming film, and she is outstanding, but this one gives greater range to her skills.

Notable (and watchable!) as a counterpoint to Winslet's Ruth is sexy and sleazy Sophie Lee as Yvonne who is so taken with P.J. that she fairly begs him to make love to her. Also impressive is Julie Hamilton as the woebegone and stumbling mother.

Of course I would say see this for Kate Winslet, and if you are a fan, you sure don't want to miss Holy Smoke since it includes one of her best performances; however, what really impressed me is the original and daring conception and direction by Jane Campion who is best known for The Piano (1993), a film that received an Oscar nomination for the best direction and starred Holly Hunter, Harvey Keitel and Sam Neill.

So see this for Jane Campion who is not afraid to show human nature in the raw."
Shashank Tripathi | Gadabout | 01/27/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Jane Campion rides a slippery slope: an Australian woman (Winslet) visits India and becomes indoctrinated with a cult. Sounds like a sombre enough subject, but not in the hands of Campion. We are served instead a slightly more doozy fare: a part satire, part romantic comedy, part drama and part...ahem...soft porn. There's a good deal of nudity here, and if you are a Harvey Keitel fan, that could be reason alone to grab a copy of this. Truth be told, Keitel is in fact almost embarrassing, especially towards the tail of the movie, which he spends mostly wearing a dress (don't ask.) Visual splendour of other forms abounds as well. The film sports some gorgeous shots of the Australian outback and Indian pilgrimage towns. Not that any of this really does much to the bizarre "deprogramming" dialogue. If anything saves this movie it has to be one of a couple of things: (1) Kate Winslet, who is not only very beautiful and sensual, she also lends a great deal of comic credibility to her role.(2) The second thing that no reviewers here seem to have noticed is THE mindblowing SOUNDTRACK!Overall the movie is somewhat of a mess with a highly implausible denouement twist, but its probably a worthy ride for Winslet/Keitel fans. Recommended rental."