Monday, October 27, 2008

THE NAKED KISS (Sam Fuller, 1964, USA) Sam Fuller’s tabloid-noir drama is tainted with misogyny and one-night stands; Grantville becomes a dark reflection of Thornton Wilder’s small town morality. The film begins with Kelly, a bald prostitute assaulting her pimp and stealing only the money that she rightfully earned. This lays her moral foundation (which is a bit more than horizontal) and reveals to the audience that she’s tough but a square-dealer. Kelly tries to put her past behind her (like many of her Johns, I’m sure) and finds herself in Grantville, which is Anywhere, USA. Though she sleeps with the first man she meets, her intentions of quitting the trade are sincere: she begins to volunteer for a local children’s hospital and get her life straight. But this preposterous story just doesn’t work. Fuller wants the audience to accept Kelly as a strong woman, a fierce independent fighter who can stand on her own two feet. But Fuller puts the moral blame directly upon her shoulders, she carries the stigma of prostitution throughout the narrative: never once is a man accused of wrongdoing by sleeping with her, particularly the cop! Instead of being successful on her own, Kelly must marry a wealthy man to be accepted, to be freed from her cursed past. The plot sinks deeper into contrivance when she finds a job: I suppose education, training, and experience weren’t necessary in the medical field in the early sixties. After the fatal infraction, Kelly is denied all Constitutional rights and held in a tiny jail cell without representation…by the very cop who slept with her. Also, he dredges up “character witnesses” like her former pimp who have absolutely no bearing on proving the case: this is the junk people write when they don’t do research. Then Capt. Griff (aforementioned cop) allows Kelly to interview the little girl who is a potential witness and possibly molested by the man Kelly murdered. This stretches plausibility so thin the narrative becomes cellophane. The script is inundated with inane dialogue that attempts to mimic the guttural musings and violent wit of the film-noir genre and instead becomes monotone camp. Fuller’s camerawork relies on too many close-ups that are edited poorly together so we lose focus; rather than becoming closer to the subject we are subtracted from the narrative. Though the premise is rather bold, Fuller wants us to believe that the only human being worse than a prostitute is a child molester. Constance Tower is the only bright spot upon this dim stage; her nuanced performance transcends the dimwitted script and makes us care, if only a little, about her sad circumstance. (D)

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