Life in an elegant Parisian brothel in the early twentieth century. The madam essentially owns the women: their expenses exceed earnings, they are in debt. They face problems of pregnancy, ... See full summary »
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Life in an elegant Parisian brothel in the early twentieth century. The madam essentially owns the women: their expenses exceed earnings, they are in debt. They face problems of pregnancy, opium, age, and violent clients. One reads sociology at her peril. Occasionally, a client talks of marriage. There are also friendships and affection among the women. The madam is in a dispute with her landlord and calls on influential clients to help. There's a picnic one summer day, a wake, and an evening in masks. Have they expectations? In a coda, we watch a street scene in contemporary Paris. Written by
The casting says "Clotilde" but her name is misspelled (as "Clothilde", rather a common error in France) in the movie when we see the lines of name/debt written by the matron. See more »
A character says he's been to the inauguration ceremony of the Paris Metro. After that there is a scene where we hear fireworks for Bastille Day (14 July). The opening of the Paris Metro (Line 1) was on 19 July 1900, five days after Bastille Day. See more »
It was a long, hard slog, trying to get through this story of a French whorehouse and its staff during la belle époque. A poor sixteen-year-old applies, and is accepted into, the bordello. She's the audience proxy. The other ladies teach her the tricks of the trade. On the whole, it might have been written by a French anthropologist. The writer/director is determined to show us how this system works. I admire Levi-Strauss but I could never understand him. I think I understand this movie, though. It's just that it's so dull.
It might have helped if any of the characters were at all animated but they're not. They're, how you say, blasé. It would also have helped if there were even one girl who was beautiful enough to coagulate your eyeballs. Instead, one of the most prominent of the ladies has a nose on her that suggests she should be hovering over a grassy field, wings fluttering, searching for mice.
On the plus side, a good deal of attention is paid to period detail. The production crew must have studied Toulouse-Lautrec with a microscope, and it turned out pretty atmospheric. We have the rosy cheeks, the scented soap, and those endearing black chokers that girls of the period used to wear and that -- come to think of it -- Natalie Portman wore in "Léon: The Professional." Whatever happened to black chokers anyway? They were very sexy. Everything seems to be changing for the worse. The old days are gone forever.
I'm joking around because, I expect, I have nothing much more to say about the film. I retired from anthropology some years ago and am fed up with tribal studies.
You want to see a decent whorehouse movie? See "Pretty Baby," also directed by a Frenchman, Louis Malle, in 1978. The setting is New Orleans in 1917, but it's very French in its approach to whoredom, and New Orleans was still rather a French city with monolingual French speakers. Degas visited relatives there. The set design is equally evocative. And it has drama as well as nudity. This one has only nudity.
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