Wednesday, 16 January 2013

The Case Of Rémy Couture

Rémy Couture, the Quebec special effects artist, was charged with three counts of corrupting morals by distributing, possessing and producing obscene material.

When I first heard about this I had to think to myself - "Are we still in the 80's?" because this story sounded just like something out of the 'Video Nasties' era. A person being thrown in front of a judge because of their art.

Couture was arrested in 2009 and has spent the last 3 years defending his art in court and was a case that tested the boundaries of creative expression. Couture first came onto Interpol's radar in 2006 when a complaint from an Internet user in Austria arose. From there, a European pathologist could not say with certainty that the crimes on the film were not actually real. However, all the videos on Couture's site have credits at the end, identifying all the actors and actresses taking part in the production.

The website was part of a personal project by Couture designed to raise the bar of his make-up and special effects work. Couture, who is self-taught, sought to bring a psychopathic killer character of his own making to life. Couture described it as a sort of "fake diary of a serial killer,'' complete with his own universe inspired by horror movies and literature.

Couture told the jury that his was a creation of horror and aimed to disgust. He denied the Crown's contention that he was making pornography with a violent twist. He argued the sexual nature of some of his work was secondary. Couture told the court:

"My objective was to create horror, plain and simple,'' 

Defence experts testified that Couture's work was in line with other similar work in the genre. A university cinema professor testified that what was acceptable in the genre had changed greatly over the span seven decades.

It was reported that a jury comprised of seven women and five men sat in stunned silence as hundreds of photos and two videos of Couture's work, featuring gruesome murders, torture, assaults and necrophilia with female victims, were shown. During the trial, Couture argued his gory works, roughly a thousand images and two short videos that appeared on his website, 'Inner Depravity', should be considered art. The material in question depicts gruesome murders, torture, sexual abuse, assaults and necrophilia - all with young female victims.

The jury was tasked with determining whether the material in question was obscene and dangerous enough to actually incite people to act out what they see.

The Crown argued that there were risks associated with exposing such material, calling it violent pornography. Publishing the material "undermines fundamental values of Canadian society,'' prosecutor Michel Pennou argued. Experts for the Crown testified that the material could push vulnerable members of society to act out what they see. They also took issue with the fact that the victims were all women. Couture had said he'd planned to create a new video where the female victim turns the tables on his psychopath creation, but he never got to it as his special effects career began to take off.

The artist told reporters that he was approached by a police detective about a pleading out and getting an absolute discharge in the case, but Couture has said that he went ahead out of principle. He said that pleading guilty or settling could set a dangerous precedent and raise questions about other kinds of work done by artists.

After two days of deliberations the jury acquitted Couture of all three charges, outside the court he stated:

“It’s the end of a nightmare that lasted three years, I want to thank the jury and all those who supported me.”

It was definitely a victory for freedom of expression and basically good sense. Whether you like his work or not you can't deny the impact this case would've had on our beloved genre if he had been found guilty, I shudder at the thought

Anyone who has gone to court knows lawyer fees are steep and Couture’s cost upwards of $25K. You can support the film-maker by donating or buying an item on Find out more about the case in this trailer for the film about Remy, "Art/Crime".

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