House of Tolerance

Director: Bertrand Bonello
Year Released: 2011
Rating: 3.5

Moody, dream-like peek into the lives of several prostitutes in an upscale Parisian brothel and, most importantly, their deep connections to each other (and not so much the men that 'use' their bodies). You could argue it's a feminist view of the art of selling one's sexual organs, and that Bonello (a male) is on the side of the ladies: he views their plight and their sadness with complete empathy, and even, in a most fitting ending, flashes forward over a hundred years to modern day Paris and the ladies who have to sell themselves on the actual streets (as opposed to the 'safe' confines of a brothel over a century ago). Virtually plotless, it exists as a kind of poetic fantasia, drifting from smoke-filled room to bathtub to washroom, but everything you need to know about the souls of its inhabitants can be read in their eyes as they're being penetrated. One of my literary (and critical) heroes, Monsieur Baudelaire, found inspiration in such confines (although there's a rumor he never actually 'utilized' any of the prostitutes and died a virgin), and much of this reminds me of his magnum opus, The Flowers of Evil.