Monday, January 23, 2012

House of Pleasures (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

House of Pleasures

"House of Pleasures" is a sensual yet disturbing delight. In the voluptual sense it chronicles nothing less than the beginning of Surrealism and the fleshly Fauvists, focusing on a bordello in the 1900s and the visuals are as rich as a pomegranate jewel on Salvador Dali's velvet tie.

A domineering Madam ( Noemi Lvovsky) is in charge of a "House of Tolerance" which happens to be under the threat of violence and declining patronage. Sparks  fly when the young Pauline (Iliana Zabeth) begins employment.  Suddenly without warning, a bookish, anemic man starts to conduct himself in the manner of Jack the Ripper. One lady (Alice Barnole) is  horribly disfigured in a manner that foretells Heath Ledger's Joker in "The Dark Knight". Iconic references aside, the scene is jolting and creepy, not for the squeamish. 

It is soon clear that like Milton, we are in a opiate centrifugal whirl of a paradisiacal Heaven or a purgatorial Hell     with nothing but visual ambrosia in between. Under the weight of  some bright and seeping serpentine bodies, you can feel the thick clouds of opium overhead and imagine skies of cerulean blue or green absinthe sipped from pale pink lips. This film looks and sounds like the heaviness of pearls on liquid breasts put in motion. There is even a sable panther underfoot. 

I have heard it said that every period film is colored by the time in which it is made. If so, this film is more gorgeous than Lady Gaga and more princely than Prince. The ladies undulate and laze about with an eerie reptilian  rubescence. If you find my description to be confusing and ill-matched, "House of Pleasures" seems so as well, with an anachronistic score by R&B singer Lee Moses and The Moody Blues, but despite this futurism, everything works.

Rather than being preoccupied with melodrama and plot, this film is a velvet slice of life. The girls spend their time doing duties in the nude and chatting about pedestrian events as well as sexually explicit  ways to ensnare customers. We, as sitting voyeurs are spared little. There is gore as well as riches in the commerce of lust. The sight of a weevil boring its way into a master painting is no accident. Lust has rot. And the message of "House of Pleasures" seems to be that consensual fleshy intimacy may go the way of our vanishing bookstores. Direct contact with another human may soon be an extraterrestrial event, something from our antiquated past. 

I ,for one, hope not.

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