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In 17th-century France, Father Urbain Grandier seeks to protect the city of Loudun from the corrupt establishment of Cardinal Richelieu. Hysteria occurs within the city when he is accused of witchcraft by a sexually repressed nun.
The prostitute Liz works on the streets of Los Angeles. She recalls her life in flashback, when she marries an alcoholic man. She leaves him with their son. Then she works as waitress in a diner until the day a man introduces her to prostitution. Later she is raped by at least five men and the pimp Blake "protects" her. Liz tries to escape from Blake and befriends the prostitute Katie; however Blake chases her. On the streets, she befriends the homeless Rasta (Antonio Fargas) that helps her when she needs. Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Russell's often cited, perfect retort to "Pretty Woman" deals with a Los Angeles streetwalker and her myriad of seedy misadventures as a woman of the night...and day. Based from a stage play, it pretty much works like that, but basically set outdoors.
Russell (Theresa, that is), directs monologues at the camera in between interaction with various figures in her life. Be it her Brooks Brothers pimp (who looks more like a yuppie banker) or a pair of dopey foreigners she co-mingles with. Odd that Russell (the director) would choose not one, but two men of far-away descent for the female Russell to play off of. The first being what seems to be a Jamaican (though played by African-American actor Fargas) for midnight chats, and a clichéd Arab who says cutesy things like "Will you be doing it without a rubber thing?".
Russell's story darts about in different fashions, from flashbacks to in-the-moment pick-ups from customers. At one point director Russell even cuts to the pimp cruising the streets and waxing philosophical to the camera as well. Those expecting something gratuitous to munch popcorn to need to look elsewhere. Whoring is not glamorized here, with gang rapes, slashed hookers, and hateful tricks full of salty language. Once in a while (director) Russell lightens things up with throwaway gags (no pun) including a comical caning and a shoe-fetish nutbar who even comes with a small script.
Physically, Russell is an effective choice for Liz, perhaps a little too pretty, but does sport a big butt and a few extra pounds. What distracts more is Russell's exceedingly uneven performance, one of the more mixed I've ever seen. Crossing an Elvira voice with a jr. high intellect, she captures your attention, though not always winningly. Part of the problem is the all-too-apparent dubbing of her voice for the street scenes. In order to remove the horns and whooshing of cars, her re-reading of lines is sometimes painful to listen to. Her quieter moments of pre-prostitution life work better, she being portrayed more as innocent and naive. Along with those scenes being shot indoors.
The film sometimes lapses into inappropriate satire or bawdiness, then will slug you with broken fingers and slashed throats. It doesn't always work, but holds your attention. Sort of a reworking of Russell's far superior 1984 work, "Crimes of Passion", with the same wise-assed hooker approach. Though that film was more straight-forward, and a had a three-character triangle of obsession, marital commentary, and redemption. Here the femme Russell is pretty much by herself, leading a more one-note lifestyle. Seek out "Crimes" for the better movie; seek out "Whore" for a gritty reality check.
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