Here to prove that misogyny never quite goes out of style in the cinema, French director Bertrand Bonello presents this wearisome, questionable spectacle. Set in a Paris brothel around 1900, the film shows how luxurious establishments such as these will not survive into the new century. The women look as if they have a cosseted existence, but are actually prone to sexual disease and assault and disfigurement by the pampered clients – this is shown in lip-smacking detail, one fleeting image suggesting that the woman involved might have actually found it exciting. There is a continuous, oppressive hint of nostalgic fascination and reverence for all this creepiness, and the film seems to partake of the customers’ jaded connoisseurship and contempt. The final shots exemplify the heavy-handedness and lack of real insight in this weirdly nasty film.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010