I had only one student complain about the film. Although some students in my Mon/Weds class did not like the film and found it repellent, they did not argue that they should not be asked to watch it, and instead did exactly as I would hope: they watched it and had thought about lots of reasons that it was repellent. In other words, they were thinking, paying attention, and wanted to talk about the film. Some others, many, perhaps the majority, were fascinated by the film, and none seemed to have difficulty understanding it as was suggested last week by my colleague. I provided something of a historical context, discussing attitudes about poverty and crime that existed at the time (mostly environmental arguments about the causes of crime, and the subsequent implications of these views), the youth culture of the late 60s and 70s, the Cold War, etc. They seemed to understand very well how these things related to the film, and I got very good in class writing on it, for the start of a discussion on a text.
Of course, I am still deciding what to do about the student who dredged up the censorship appeal, arguing that the film was banned by the Church, something I have not been able to find evidence of, by the way. I am not at all certain that the Catholic Church still has a list of banned texts, though I know they did at the time the film was released.
The student wants to stay in the class and essentially have me teach a whole separate class to her, although I explained the difficulty of this. She cannot take the department chair's class, though he offered two sections of it for her to choose from, or so she says. I am not ready to teach her, but perhaps this is a teachable moment for both of us.