Magazine article Screen International

Whores' Glory

Magazine article Screen International

Whores' Glory

Article excerpt

Dir/scr: Michael Glawogger. Austria-Germany. 2011. 114mins

Alternately disturbing and fascinating, Austrian filmmaker Michael Glawogger's latest documentary charts the everyday (and everynight) life of prostitutes in three territories: Thailand, Bangladesh and Mexico. Structured as a run-on triptych and presented without the moral crutch of voiceover narration, Whores' Glory is often uncomfortably voyeuristic, partly because of Glawogger's decision to glamourise (or ennoble?) his subject matter by setting certain scenes to a soundtrack of torchy nocturnal rock ballads by the like of PJ Harvey and Coco Rosie.

It can expect to pop up in urban arthouse slots in several territories before enjoying a long-tail auxiliary afterlife.

But audience provocation and a certain auterish scripting of reality has always been central to Glawogger's style. We may feel uneasy about the method, but the result is to spark a debate about prostitution that for most viewers will continue long after the end credits roll.

No harm at all will be done to the film's commercial prospects by its packageable soundtrack and relatively slick style, coupled with the filmmaker's remarkable access to environments that most of the film's viewers will never set foot in but are intensely curious about (an appetite also indulged also by Glawogger's 2005 'worst jobs in the world' documentary Workingman's Death, and sardonically fictionalised in his 2006 feature Slumming). This is a festival-tickling documentary, for sure, but after its Venice and Toronto berths it can expect to pop up in urban arthouse slots in several territories before enjoying a long-tail auxiliary afterlife.

The film's three locations occupy successive segments of more or less equal length. They seem chosen for contrast - visual as well as thematic. The Thai section, set mostly inside an apparently legal or semi-legal Bangkok brothel called The Fishtank, is bright as a popsicle, with neatly coiffed and made-up girls sitting waiting to be chosen, each identified by a number, in a glassed in 'fishtank' area, facing the customers in the cheesy nightclub zone beyond.

In the central Bangladeshi segment, set in a grim shanty-town brothel district called 'The City of Joy' on the edge of the city of Faridpur, day and night scenes alternate, with the camera hemmed in by dark narrow corridors inhabited by sad-eyed girls, some of whom look no older than 12 or 13. …

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