Bertrand Bonello paints magnificent moving pictures that absolutely recall Ingres, Degas, Manet -and more- with those decadent scenes in a decadent house of tolerance that is about to disappear with the coming of the 20th century as story starts in the twilight of the 19th century in November 1899. With an unconventional story that probably will not be true in a real bordello, we are taken in a voyage that starts in the “normal” everyday life of the girls until one girl becomes careless with a regular and allows him to damage her for life. She becomes “the woman that laughs” and is like the invisible axis that holds the stories of the madam and a few of the girls.
Story is complex and layered with the most interesting ending that proposes that even do the houses of tolerance were banned in France a long time ago, today the setting might have change, but the everyday life and conditions under what the girls work may have remain the same.
Is a very beautiful to watch film with great performances by Hafsia Herzi, Adele Haenel, Jasmine Trinca, Céline Sallette, and especially Alice Barnole that plays Madeleine, the woman that laughs with makeup that is scary/awkward/pathetic as looks a lot like Batman’s the Joker in the latest version.
A film with a name that comes from Apollonie Sabatier the muse that inspired Baudelaire verses like: "Ange plein de gaîté, connaissez-vous l'angoisse/ La honte, les remords, les sanglots, les ennuis/Et les vagues terreurs de ces affreuses nuits/qui compriment le coeur comme un papier qu'on froisse ?/Ange plein de gaîté, connaissez-vous l'angoisse ?" (Réversibilité). Verses that also talk about this film.
This film made me think about another poetic bordello film Hai shang hua (Flowers of Shanghai) by Hsiao-hsien Hou and believe is the best reference when I say that if you enjoyed this film you will also highly enjoy Bonello film. But I know that film is not for all audiences as is a very French/European film that shows images of the body but actually is speaking about or reflecting the soul.
I highly enjoyed the film both visually as well as because the female story that while set in the past is so true nowadays. I do recommend film but be aware that film is not sexy, sexual or soft porn and there are much less sensual or erotic scenes than in other films or other Bonello’s films, so if you’re watching because anything similar you will be bored to death as many have been.
This is another outstanding film from Cannes 2011 in competition selection that confirms me that last year was an excellent year for world cinema and Cannes just showcased the best of the best. Great.
Watch trailer @MOC