A Movie A Day #93: Whore (1991, directed by Ken Russell)


Liz (Theresa Russell) is a prostitute trying to survive on the mean streets of Los Angeles.  With the help of a homeless performance named Rasta (Antonio Fargas), Liz tries to escape from her abusive pimp, Blake (Benjamin Mouton).

To its credit, Whore was made as a response to the glamorous and irresponsible way that prostitution was portrayed in Pretty Woman but Whore had too much going against it to succeed.  It was based on a theatrical monologue, which was almost always a bad sign.  The majority of the movie was Liz talking straight to the camera, which was another red flag.  Most ominously, it was a Theresa Russell movie that was not directed by Nicolas Roeg and those never seemed to turn out well.  The director of Whore was Ken Russell but it featured none of the excess that Russell was known for.  Stuck with a low-budget and a reportedly unenthusiastic studio, Russell’s direction was uncharacteristically restrained.  (That’s a polite way of saying boring.)

The one good thing about Whore, and the reason why I’m writing about it during this site’s look back at Twin Peaks, was the presence of Jack Nance, playing one of the few men who actually tries to help Liz.  Nance, of course, not only played fishing-obsessed Pete Martell in Twin Peaks but also starred in Eraserhead and appeared in all of Lynch’s films (with the exception of The Elephant Man) up until Nance’s mysterious death in 1996.  Literally credited as playing “Helpful passerby.” Nance only had a few minutes of screen time but made a definite impression as one of the few kind people to be found in Liz’s dark world.

As a reflection of how much times have changed, Whore‘s title was so controversial that, in 1991, it was released in some areas under an alternative title: If You Can’t Say It, Just See It.

 

Back to School #53: Dancer, Texas Pop. 81 (dir by Tim McCanlies)


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Dancer, Texas Pop. 81 is a 1998 film about a small town in West Texas that only has a population of 81 citizens.  Just from my own experience of telling people about how much I happen to like this movie, I get the feeling that only 81 people may have actually seen it.  But no matter!  Regardless of how many people have actually seen it, Dancer, Texas is one of my favorite films about my home state.

Dancer starts out with a scene that is so quintessentially Texan that it might as well appear next to Texas in the dictionary.  Four teenagers — all of whom are scheduled to soon graduate from high school — sit out in the middle of the highway.  The road seems to stretch on forever.  The land around them is empty.  If you’ve ever been to West Texas, you know what type of land I’m talking about.  It’s the type of land where you feel like you can see forever.  In the far distance, we see a pair of headlights.

“Car’s comin'” one of them drawls, knowing that they’ve got at least another 15 minutes before that car ever gets anywhere near the tiny town of Dancer, Texas.

These four teenage boys make up 80% of the graduating class of Dancer’s high school and all four of them are planning on leaving town and heading for Los Angeles.  Keller (Breckin Meyer) is their leader, the big dreamer who can’t wait to get out of the state.  Terrell Lee (Peter Facinelli) is the son of the only rich man in town and he’s being pressured by his mother to stay in Dancer and to learn the oil business.  John (Eddie Mills) is the simplest of the four and also the most reluctant about leaving.  He simply wants to be a farmer and he can’t understand why his taciturn father refuses to say anything to keep him from leaving town.  And finally, there’s Squirrel (Ethan Embry), who is the weird one.  Every group needs a weird one and Squirrel is weird even by the usual standards of small town oddness.

Not much happens in Dancer, Texas.  That goes for both the film and the town.  Over the course of two days, all four of the boys are forced to decide whether they really want to leave or if they actually want to stay.  Adding an extra poignancy to their decision is the fact that there literally is no chance that life in Dancer is ever going to change.  Dancer is as it has always been and always will be.  Deciding to stay means staying forever.  And, as the film shows, that’s okay for some people and terrible for others.

I really like Dancer, Texas.  Yes, it does move at its own deliberate pace and yes, a few scenes do tend to get a bit too obvious in their sentimentality (just to name two of the complaints that I saw from some commenters over at the imdb).  Meyer, Facinelli, and Mills all give such wonderfully natural performances that it makes you all the more aware that Embry seems a bit out-of-place.  But, ultimately, none of that matters.  Dancer, Texas is one of the most honest and sincere films that I’ve ever seen and it’s a film that does my home state proud.

Lisa’s Rating: 8 out of 10

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