Every now and then, a person gets lucky and stumbles across an innovative surprise. House Of Pleasures was that for me. I’m also going to say right from the start, that this movie will not be for everyone. Expect lots of nudity but little actual sex. The characters in this movie are prostitutes in a bordello in Paris at the beginning of the 20th century.
I had heard a couple great reviews about this movie so was surprised to find it on Netflix while borrowing someone’s account. Let me put to rest something right here before I start, if you think that somehow this movie glorifies prostitution (think Pretty Woman) then you are going to be really disappointed. Despite the upper-class nature of the bordello, this movie had real life grit in every scene. As I said, there is very little sex here and the story starts with a tragedy and ends with one. Both tragedies being the result of the lifestyle. There is nothing glamorous about the bordello life depicted in this French film.
I have to say what amazed me the most about this film was the research involved in it. No detail was too small to make authentic. Things I never would’ve thought of like how did the women keep up personal hygiene or just the whole underground (or not so underground as the case was) trade of women in those days was spelled out in detail. The sets – I remember seeing a water bottle that clearly hadn’t existed since that time period being used – and the costumes brought the time period to life. Kudos to the production team on this one because I know weeks had to be spent getting every little thing right.
Visually this was a marvelous film to look at even if it takes place almost exclusively inside the bordello. This was, as the movie points out in the story, because women weren’t allowed to venture outside by themselves. If they did, they could be arrested for solicitation. If you worked inside the bordello, you were there 24/7 unless a client or the owner arranged for you to venture out. Just an example of the authenticity I was writing about earlier. The camera angles though at times were experimental using split screens in ways you don’t see too often or giving a de ja vu feeling at times. Wonderful work.
I noticed something else while watching it. The cast lent the impression of being real people. I didn’t feel like I was watching actresses at all but almost following real people trapped in this lifestyle around during their day. There is a wonderful scene where one of the women does a tarot reading for the house – and the way it is done was so authentic for that age and place that it was perfect, a writer who didn’t know the history of tarot would’ve screwed it up – and in that scene which was one of my favs it caught the individual personalities and highlighted them with the camera. There were no stereotypes in this script.
This was a brilliant film especially on the production end. I know this type of movie isn’t for everyone and while the plot isn’t the most complicated one ever related it is clear from this film that the creative forces behind it gave it their all. You could feel that effort. I really liked the ending as well for it makes you think. This movie played to my creative natures and I think if you give it a chance, it will yours as well. Thanks to the reviewers who pointed me in this film’s direction.