Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Ken Russell's Whore and Human Avarice -Part One

(Gardenia and the Mighty Slug. The sublime and talented Theresa Russell in Whore. I have a vintage 80's strapless mini dress in the exact same fabric as her jacket)

(As I delve deeper into Ken's work I'll be continuing this and various other posts in a progressive format so they can eventually be read as complete posts)


If like me you are tired of reading about child killers walking free, double murder suicides and zoo animals being killed then may I please direct your attention to a scene by scene comparison of Ken Russell's "Whore" and Gary Marshall's "Pretty Woman."

Yes. You heard me correctly. And I'm not the only one.

Within this comparison one actually begins to get a clearer picture of the hypocrisy and the built in avarice of so called "civilised western society." Far more relevant than a Sunday supplement "so what went wrong" style article this comparison shows how mass market culture is designed to make people oblivious to pain and suffering. Whore, based on the play by Black cab driver David Hines, is a realist portrayal of the life of a prostitute in LA. Upon its release the film baffled critics while, Pretty Woman, a romantic comedy topped all the best of lists for 1990 and garnered an Oscar nod and super stardom thereafter for Julia Roberts.

The first appearance of Roberts in Pretty Woman is a dated-when-it-came-out looking 80's Mtv video sequence where, via a series of body doubles, she is getting dressed in what could easily be Euro clubwear (Vintage Men's smoking Jacket, velvet French painter's cap, cutaway dress, thigh highs) slowly and seductively to go out and work the mean streets of Hollywood. In Whore, we see a tunnel, traffic and Theresa Russell dressed to turn tricks in clothing (silver spangled bra, red leopard velvet Jacko Jacket and micro mini) only a hooker would wear is standing outside of it.


Hot and confident Richard Gere has been dumped yet again by a woman for being a marriage-aphobe workaholic. When Julia Roberts gets into his car he's charming, flirty and respectful. And within three minutes he's asked her to drive his lawyer's 50K Lotus because he's taken the time to find out in her childhood she was a tomboy who read car magazines and he can't drive a stick!! His eyes soften as they say goodbye, initially just wanting Julia to "show him how to get to Beverly Hills" Gere now wants more. Within fifteen minutes she's flossing in his hotel bathroom and watching "I Love Lucy" reruns. The morning after he's sexually serviced, a five star breakfast is waiting for her, she has his cash for endless shopping and they are talking about "his work."

Meanwhile on the street, Theresa Russell is the recipient of foul verbal abuse when she thwarts a john who wants to sodomize her and a potentially deadly ride with two men who throw her onto the cement. Add to that a homeless nut (Antonio Fargas) who self harms for money and her vivid flashback to being brutally gang raped by a group of young men in a van and there we have Whore's first TEN minutes!

The New York Times gushed over Pretty Woman:

"Yes, yes, the 80's are over. But isn't there room in the time capsule for ''Pretty Woman,'' the romantic comedy about a lovelorn corporate raider and a sweet, wholesome streetwalker from Hollywood Boulevard? This one truly deserves a place. It is something special... Julia Roberts, who is so enchantingly beautiful, so funny, so natural and such an absolute delight that it is hard to hold anything against the movie. " Janet Maslin

Ahhhh, the most repressive era of American culture since the 1950's is ending, Kurt Cobain will blow his brains out before the decades half over, bombs will be dropping next year but can't we all put on our shell suits, go to the sushi bar and wish we were Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman?

"Once the ice is broken, it is time for the film's true raison d'etre to emerge. ''Pretty Woman'' isn't about sex, but about conspicuous consumption... he sets Vivian loose on Rodeo Drive with his credit cards in hand. Edward escorts her personally and enters one boutique, declaring, ''We're going to be spending an obscene amount of money in here.'' One evening, Edward takes Vivian via limousine and private jet to the opera in San Francisco, borrowing several thousand dollars' worth of necklace for her to wear.Everything in the movie has a price tag."

That my friends is some sick shit. Maslin is emphatic that prostitution and the risking of ones life that it entails is not the reason why Roberts' character is living the fantasy high life. Maslin simply sees prostitution on the same plane as a shopping spree or a fancy dinner.

Vincent Catty Canby on Whore:

"The movie certainly doesn't glorify the profession. It confirms one's suspicions without adding to one's understanding. Mr. Russell treats Liz's story without any of the spectacular directorial touches for which he is known. It's difficult to tell whether this was an artistic decision or one dictated by a limited budget." Vincent Canby

It takes a blogger(aka writing out of love not money and social climbing)like J to the Power of 7 to nail it:

"It isn't pretty or glamorous, is it? How much value is attached to the life of a prostitute? Ask the King County sheriff's Department and the Seattle Police Department--they allowed the Green River killer to run riot for 20+ years thanks to their own rampant hatred and bigotry towards prostitutes. That hatred also exists throughout our culture and in the minds and attitudes of many Americans.This is a pure film for Ken Russell, and a compassionate statement for the victims of prostitution, namely, the whores." J to The Power of 7

To be continued and fine tuned tomorrow

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2 Comments:

Blogger grace said...

hmm, you write that brings up many many thoughts.
It think the vision of Pretty woman is not really the glorified Whore, but more that , poor girl makes good. A girl finds her dream. Don't get me wrong, I am very broke, and certainly being a "street girl" is not an option, and could never do, but it is a movie, of hope and aahh, the prince shows up and saves the day. Yep, only a fairy tale, and only in a movie. But one can wish.
"waiting on a Prince"

6:45 AM  
Blogger par.nordstrom said...

I agree 100 % abt.´Pretty Woman ´. Dat movie is one of da silliest evva made (Sorry , Grace) makin ´turnin tricks´ seem like a jolly picnic in da sweetest of surroundings . Critics over here consequently knocked it cumpletely , but of course , audiencewise twas a huge hit ./ P.S. Apart from da supersilly ´plot´ I have one more objection to ´Pretty Woman : I just don´t find Julia Roberts pretty !!! D.S. Russell´s ´Whore´ sounds true to life . I shall go rent ´Whore´. (Pun NOT intended ! )

6:33 AM  

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