Saturday, July 4, 2015

Whore (1991)

On this day, America celebrates its emancipation from Britain.  But we should also celebrate our ability to overcome our past tiffs and collaborate to create great art!  And also we should celebrate Julia Roberts because, without Pretty Woman, there would never have been a backlash of seedier films about prostitution, of which Ken Russell's Whore is one.


So you can tell by the name Ken Russell and the credits floating towards a tunnel opening that subtlety will not be on the menu.  Latter-day Russell was strongest at corralling campiness into audience-pleasing forms, not unlike American-period Paul Verhoeven.  But even a master craftsman can't do much with inferior materials, so we're lucky that the titular role was filled by Theresa Russell.


Russell's sensibilities as an actress salvage this thing in lots of spots.  The script is really daffy, as we migrate from broad farce to melodrama to gore during our travels.  But Russell is game for all of it, nailing both the stupidest aspects of sexiness and genuine, heart-capturing emotion.  Plus her ass is a triumph.


Russell is Liz, a whore who spends the film recalling her past experiences, often with long monologues addressed right to the camera.  She has a son who's out of her life and a pimp who's an overbearing jerk.  Like its cousin Showgirls, Whore soars highest in its dialog, as we get life-changing lines like "I wouldn't waste my cum on you!"


BITCH!  As you can see, Whore also shares with Showgirls a showcase of vomiting right at the movie's early stages.  Not sure what was happening with the zeitgeist of the 90s.  Lots of bulimia, I reckon.  I'd argue that Russell was even more ready to pull the trigger on bad-taste scenes than Verhoeven, though, as evidenced by this film's brief but glorious scenes of bloodletting.


And that is Ginger Lynn becoming a woman up there.  The Last House-like tonal shifts work really well and this feels like something unique, at least until the end, which wraps up a little too tidily.  But that's a minor criticism and the film's assets far outweigh its deficits.  Besides, even if parts of this don't work in a narrative sense, it all looks good, thanks to Ken Russell's visual genius.


This film is due for a reintroduction.  I suspect that it confused 90s viewers who expected wall-to-wall grit and sex, but got comedy with nerdy Indians and hookers reading Animal Farm.  But its roiling mixture of stuff is pretty much perfect for the mashup era, so stop bitching about Reddit and go see Whore.  It's what your forefathers would want.

***1/2

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