Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
'Kick-Ass' Creator Mark Millar Says A Hit-Girl Solo Movie Was Once In The Works With 'The Raid' Director Gareth Evans 'Kick-Ass' Creator Mark Millar Says A Hit-Girl Solo Movie Was Once In The Works With 'The Raid' Director Gareth Evans Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon & Leslie Jones To Lead Paul Feig's 'Ghostbusters' Reboot Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon & Leslie Jones To Lead Paul Feig's 'Ghostbusters' Reboot 30 Films You Forgot Were Oscar Winners 30 Films You Forgot Were Oscar Winners Review: Documentary 'Night Will Fall' Is A Powerful Reminder Of The Horrors Of The Holocaust Review: Documentary 'Night Will Fall' Is A Powerful Reminder Of The Horrors Of The Holocaust Harvey Weinstein Explains What Happened With 'Grace Of Monaco,' Says He Was Right About 'Snowpiercer' Harvey Weinstein Explains What Happened With 'Grace Of Monaco,' Says He Was Right About 'Snowpiercer' Harvey Weinstein Says Quentin Tarantino Has Changed The Last Chapter Of 'The Hateful Eight' Harvey Weinstein Says Quentin Tarantino Has Changed The Last Chapter Of 'The Hateful Eight' Sundance Review: ‘Slow West’ Starring Michael Fassbender, Kodi Smit-McPhee & Ben Mendelsohn Sundance Review: ‘Slow West’ Starring Michael Fassbender, Kodi Smit-McPhee & Ben Mendelsohn Sundance: Keanu Reeves Opens The Door To Trouble In Teaser Trailer For Eli Roth's 'Knock Knock' Sundance: Keanu Reeves Opens The Door To Trouble In Teaser Trailer For Eli Roth's 'Knock Knock' Watch: 8-Minute Video Essay Argues Steve McQueen's 'Shame' Is Actually A Critique Of The Modern Metropolis Watch: 8-Minute Video Essay Argues Steve McQueen's 'Shame' Is Actually A Critique Of The Modern Metropolis Watch: The Tampon Scene From 'Fifty Shades Of Grey' You Won't See In The Movie Recreated With 'The Sims' Watch: The Tampon Scene From 'Fifty Shades Of Grey' You Won't See In The Movie Recreated With 'The Sims' The 10 Best Films Of 2004 The 10 Best Films Of 2004 'Death Proof' Star Zoe Bell Leads Latest Additions To Quentin Tarantino's 'Hateful Eight' As Filming Begins 'Death Proof' Star Zoe Bell Leads Latest Additions To Quentin Tarantino's 'Hateful Eight' As Filming Begins Watch: 'Saturday Night Live' Sketch 'Fanatic' Written & Directed By Paul Thomas Anderson And Starring Ben Affleck Watch: 'Saturday Night Live' Sketch 'Fanatic' Written & Directed By Paul Thomas Anderson And Starring Ben Affleck First Look: Leonardo DiCaprio Gets Grimy In Alejandro González Iñárritu's 'The Revenant' First Look: Leonardo DiCaprio Gets Grimy In Alejandro González Iñárritu's 'The Revenant' "Carry Bolt Cutters Everywhere": Werner Herzog Has 24 Amazing Pieces Of Advice "Carry Bolt Cutters Everywhere": Werner Herzog Has 24 Amazing Pieces Of Advice The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far Watch: 3 Graphic, Very NSFW Clips From Lars von Trier's 'Nymphomaniac Vol II — Director's Cut' Watch: 3 Graphic, Very NSFW Clips From Lars von Trier's 'Nymphomaniac Vol II — Director's Cut' The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season From Worst To Best: Ranking The Films Of Hayao Miyazaki From Worst To Best: Ranking The Films Of Hayao Miyazaki Christopher Nolan Says His Howard Hughes Film Is Dead, But He'd Still Like To Do A Bond Film At Some Point Christopher Nolan Says His Howard Hughes Film Is Dead, But He'd Still Like To Do A Bond Film At Some Point

Cannes Review: 'L'Apollonide' A Preposterous, Misguided, Sensationalist Bore About Prostitution

Photo of Kevin Jagernauth By Kevin Jagernauth | The Playlist May 16, 2011 at 2:02AM

They say prostitution is the world's oldest profession and if that's true, then the discussion about legalizing it has been around just as long. Certainly the argument for doing so is not a bad one, and if done properly, it would create a safer environment for the women in the trade and their clients alike. For director Bertrand Bonello, "L'Apollonide" serves as his thesis on why prostitution needs to be legal but in championing the women he presumably made the movie for in such a woefully misguided, preposterous and exploitative piece of filmmaking, he undermines any point he's trying to make. Add to that a director who substitutes style for substance and you have one of the most tedious experiences so far on the Croisette this week.
6

They say prostitution is the world's oldest profession and if that's true, then the discussion about legalizing it has been around just as long. Certainly the argument for doing so is not a bad one, and if done properly, it would create a safer environment for the women in the trade and their clients alike. For director Bertrand Bonello, "L'Apollonide" serves as his thesis on why prostitution needs to be legal but in championing the women he presumably made the movie for in such a woefully misguided, preposterous and exploitative piece of filmmaking, he undermines any point he's trying to make. Add to that a director who substitutes style for substance and you have one of the most tedious experiences so far on the Croisette this week.

The film opens in November 1899, "the twilight of the 19th century" as we're told by the onscreen text (one of the many dashes of pretension contained in the film). We're brought into the drawing rooms of the titular brothel, a high-end house of flesh where the girls are more like sisters, and transactions are preceded by intelligent conversation and drinks. Many of the girls have regulars, and when Mathilde's (Alice Barnole)client requests that he tie her up, she agrees. We return to the drawing rooms of the house only to be interrupted by her screams. She has been left covered in blood, with her mouth sliced on both sides, leaving her with a permanent, Joker-like scar.

We fast forward to March 1900 ("the dawn of the 20th century" [eyeroll]) and we settle into the day-to-day life of these girls. Led by their madame (Noémie Lvovsky), the gaggle consists of the Algerian Samira (Hafsia Herzi), Julie (Jasmine Trinca), nicknamed Kaka for her erotic speciality, Clotilde (Celine Sallette) and Lea (Adele Haenel). However, it is the young, nubile sixteen-year old Pauline (Iliana Zabeth) who joins the house who will be our entry to the main narrative. Though far younger and more inexperienced than the rest of the girls, Pauline exhibits a shrewder wit and business mind. We soon learn that the rest of the girls are deep in debt to the madame, and are essentially unable to leave, but using her business acumen, Pauline keeps herself debt-free, leaving the door wide open for her to leave at any time. Meanwhile, we learn that rising rent may close the house altogether and the madame struggles to come up with a plan that won't force them to move or worse, break up the house they have established.

This middle section is told with with ornate yet bland lethargy. The revelations that the women are beholden to their madame, and that their success is tied to the health and cleanliness of the girls, and the establishment, are not really surprising, nor worth the exhaustive investigation Bonello gives the subject. However, his real goal here is to convince us that then, as now, the trade must come under some regulation to prevent the girls from being tied forever to one employer. So how does he do this?

He displays a Lars Von Trier-like sadistic streak, punishing his characters. Opium addiction, syphilis and humiliating sexual encounters (one involving champagne, another involving a midget) all abound to victimize the girls. But it doesn't end there. Perhaps sensing the film needs a bit more visual pizzazz, we get two graphic flashbacks to the lip slicing sequence. Combine that with random and fairly pointless split screen sequences, the amateur-hour use of anachronistic music, and the lazy choice of an African slave song sung by the girls for a deceased colleague, and you have a film that flails about, trying desperately to find meaning but constantly foiling its own purpose.

With plenty of skin, blood and suffering, Bonello tries to make his point by shocking viewers into the belief that a better, more equal environment must be created. And it's a valid point. But what Bonello seems to forget is that these women also need to be respected and by treating his characters the way he does, the director is frankly no better than the mouth slicer in the film. "L'Apollonide" tries to trade up a realistic, historically based melodrama into a profound and pointed statement on the sex trade but fails on both points. Creakily pretentious, with amateur execution and a completely wrongheaded approach "L'Apollonide" is a sensationalist bore. [F]

This article is related to: Foreign Films, Review, Foreign Directors, L’Apollonide, Bertrand Bonello


The Playlist

The obsessives' guide to contemporary cinema via film discussion, news, reviews, features, nostalgia, movie music, soundtracks, DVDs and more.


E-Mail Updates