I recently purchased the first volume in the Nick Broomfield collection. It is a box set containing his three documentaries focusing around the sex trade. Chicken Ranch was also Broomfield's first feature doco.
I have a lot of admiration for this film, not only because it was his first feature length film but also because of the absence of narration. Those who are familiar with Broomfield's work will know that he overlays his work with a droll, yet hypnotising narration. That doesn't exist in this picture.
What we have as a result is an honest (well somewhat) depiction of what a working girl goes through, both physically and also mentally. There are moments that look like all of the characters are playing up to the camera, but there are also candid moments of truth. One particular girl who loathes men altogether.... one must ask, why follow this line of work if you hate it so much? No one was holding them down!
The most interesting character in this film is the business owner himself (pimp). Here's a guy who portrays himself as a savior and a father figure to these girls. All the while the audience suspects there is more than meets the eye with this dude. He knows exactly when the camera is rolling and how he should conduct himself in front of it. My guess is that he saw this film as an opportunity to advertise.... I don't think he realized it was an honest document of life in a whorehouse.
The finale of Chicken Ranch is hilarious and also gratifying.... as viewers, we all saw it coming..... we were just wondering when it would happen, and Nick Broomfeild proved what an incredible film maker he is by leaving it for the final scene. It leaves the audience smirking, knowing that our uncertainty about the characters was spot on!
I give this film 8 out of 10.
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