Didier Grandsart reads a passage in French, from Brassaï's [Gyula Halász, photographer] Yellow Book, February 27, 1937: "Spent an evening with Yves Allégret at the brothel of rue de Hanovre. Yves, excited as if he'd just discovered a rare treasure, offered to show me this deluxe brothel - Paris' latest creation. In the middle of the vast room, women dance, others chat in the shadows of columns adorned with Greek statues. Yves is welcomed like a regular, with the same obliging oriental smile by the cloakroom woman, the manageress, and the Madame herself. It's a smile that plunges the visitor into this unique atmosphere where all social and moral restraints are almost abolished and the unhappiest man feels he's reached a state of grace, believing he's a super-male, the ultimate object of desire. The name 'house of illusions' is perfectly appropriate because everything colludes to create this illusion. And as in life all is illusion, this illusion could well divert a man from the path to despair." See more »
Interesting and well made film on a subject I had never really known about
From the early 19th century 1946 Paris had many brothels that were tolerated and controlled by the state. These were sometimes rough places but more often were housed in richly designed buildings and serviced a clientèle from all walks of life. This documentary looks back at the Paris brothels through photographs, historians as well as memories from some who would frequent them as clients or work there as prostitutes.
Scanning my reviews will tell you that as and when BBC Storyville shows a documentary film, I'll usually try to be there to catch it mainly because the quality is often high and the subject matter interesting. My interest in history exceeds my actual knowledge so this type of film is always appealing to me if it is well done. In this case I had limited knowledge or interest in the sex industry in 20th century but this film does well to show how this world of prostitution flourished during the period. The film acknowledges that there is an element of sentimentality in recalling these times and this infects the film to a point and there isn't a lot of debate about the rights and wrongs or problems there-in, in fact mostly it is a rosy picture of everyone getting what they want and this is contrasted later with the world of street prostitutes. Despite this slant though, the film is very interesting and uses the many and varied contributions and sources very well to give the viewer what feels like a complete view.
Perhaps it could have done with more of a political or social context because it does tend to focus on the world behind the brothel doors as opposed to them being in the bigger world, but regardless it was still an interesting film. Typically for Storyville it is a well made and interesting film on a subject that I knew nothing about.
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