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A Harlot's Progress (2006)

Drama looking at artist William Hogarth and his relationship with the prostitute that inspired his most famous piece.

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
... William Hogarth
... Mary Collins
... Jane Hogarth
... Sir James Thornhill
... Mother Needham
... Nathaniel Hirsch
... Henry Fielding
Oliver Ryan ... Samuel Scott
Vicky Hall ... Sarah
... James Dalton
... Sir John Gonson
... Doctor Rock
... Gaoler
Kate Ambler ... Top Floor Whore
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Storyline

In 1731 the humane artist William Hogarth is struck by the plight of prostitutes who have descended into Mother Neddwell's brothels and determines to paint a series of cautionary tableaux,using young prostitute Mary Collins. Hogarth's wife and father-in-law are dismayed but Hogarth has no sexual interest in Mary,hoping only to help her with the posing fee he gives her. Unfortunately life mirrors art as Mary's downfall follows that of the harlot in the paintings. Written by don @ minifie-1

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Sex. Squalor. Art.


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2 November 2006 (UK)  »

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Virgins are Like the Fair Flower (The Beggar's Opera)
Lyrics by John Gay
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Interesting view of history; a bit less so in its take on Hogarth
5 July 2008 | by See all my reviews

"A Harlot's Progress" uses fine acting, excellent costumes, interesting set design, hyper camera-work, and an inventive sound landscape to re-create a turbulent London of the 18th century. Unfortunately, the film is less novel in its approach to telling the story of an artwork. Hogarth's cycle of prints, from which the film takes its title, was most likely based on his general observations of a type of figure--the country girl who becomes a city prostitute--rather than a real person's life. Nothing in the series clearly individualizes the woman. But the movie, like many films before it, insists upon the idea that an artist can only paint scenes that he has personally witnessed. In the film, a friendship develops between Hogarth and a young, beautiful prostitute, and moments depicted in the print series are acted out, as the main characters' relationship quickly spirals toward predictability. The movie attempts to cast Hogarth as a 19th-century-style art rebel, while at the same time reducing him to "a good man" crusading for social reform. In actuality, Hogarth's prints are much more satirical and complicated than the movie portrays.

Despite the fact that the plot is fictional, and in some ways disappointing, the film did sustain this viewer's interest. Several of the performances, such as Sophie Thompson's touching portrayal of Jane Hogarth, are quite compelling. Occasional subtitles give interesting--in most cases horrifying--facts of the time period, and the film makes good use of their shock value. (Though an "X-Files"-style typewriter font was probably not the best choice for these.) I would recommend this movie to those interested in 18th-century London, and in Hogarth's work--but take the story with a big grain of salt. Also note that many details of the artist's tools and methods are inaccurate--I was especially annoyed by his stub of a red chalk; artists of the time used sharpened chalks in holders. But the overall sense of place and time does convince.


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