70 of 76 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful and heartbreaking film!
For years, I had heard all the controversy about this film and since I'm interested in New Orleans history, I decided to pick this up and see what all the fuss was about. I was surprised to find it different than how others had described it to me. Yes, the nudity was over the top but the story itself was tragic and well done. Violet is a child living in an adult world...
Published on November 25, 2003 by FloozyFlapper1926
137 of 150 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars censorship warning
If they gave Academy Awards for small moments, this film would deserve one for the scene in which Violet is being auctioned off, and the camera closes in on the eyes of the Black piano player, full of silent moral judgment. The print is not so lovely, with more glitches and defects than I've seen in years. Even worse, Paramount has chosen to censor the film, by reframing...
Published on November 30, 2003
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137 of 150 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars censorship warning,
By A Customer
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This review is from: Pretty Baby (DVD)If they gave Academy Awards for small moments, this film would deserve one for the scene in which Violet is being auctioned off, and the camera closes in on the eyes of the Black piano player, full of silent moral judgment. The print is not so lovely, with more glitches and defects than I've seen in years. Even worse, Paramount has chosen to censor the film, by reframing the scene where Violet is tossed out of Belloc's apartment. It's one thing to be locked out of your house, and quite another to be locked out naked. The impact (and irony and pathos) of the scene is lost along with the nudity. What's ridiculous, though, is that uncensored full-frame prints have been showing on DBS/cable for years. Why censor it now? Last one out of the barn lock the door? So we have a choice between uncensored pan & scan or cropped widescreen. After years of overpriced, underfeatured discs (how many times have they released 'better' versions of Star Trek films?), it looks like Paramount has found yet another way to reveal its failure to understand DVDs. A pity this film wasn't released by MGM.
70 of 76 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful and heartbreaking film!,
This review is from: Pretty Baby (DVD)For years, I had heard all the controversy about this film and since I'm interested in New Orleans history, I decided to pick this up and see what all the fuss was about. I was surprised to find it different than how others had described it to me. Yes, the nudity was over the top but the story itself was tragic and well done. Violet is a child living in an adult world who doesn't realize prostitution is wrong and follows in her own mother's footsteps. When Bellocq comes to the Storyville district to photograph the prostitutes, he becomes enchanted with Violet's beauty and falls in love with her.
I never felt this movie glorified child prostitution. It told the story of the way things were back then. Life now is much different than it was in the early party of the last century and I think this film shows the ugliness of the brothels of that era. Poor Violet having her virginity auctioned and really not knowing any better. When the creepy old guy pays the money, it made me feel sick to my stomach. I guess that was the point of the movie. It made me feel so many things on so many different levels.
All in all, it was a movie that made me think. It was also beautifully shot and very realistic to the time it portrayed. The costumes, the music and the setting were breathtaking. I definitely thought about it after the film was over.
A great film but one that is definitely not for everyone.
84 of 93 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Disturbing & Provocative,
25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Disturbing, poignant, yet beautiful....,
This review is from: Pretty Baby (DVD)The beautiful young Brooke Shields plays 11/12 year old Violet, daughter of Hattie (Susan Sarandon) a New Orleans prostitute living and working in a brothel in 1917. Violet has been raised in the brothel and has not been to school and has known no other life or anything about the outside world. When she turns 12, her virginity is auctioned off. Brooke Shields' portrayal of Violet is poignant and beautiful. Her childish charms and innocence are so heart-wrenchingly sweet. The scene where she jumps up and down on the photographer's bed (very childlike) and asks him whether he will take care of her before throwing her arms around him and giving him small childlike kisses on the nose, forehead etc. and reciting that little rhyme really pulled at my heart strings! I just wanted to jump into the TV and give her a hug!! This, mixed with the seductive adult things that she also says in this scene (and others) is particularly poignant as we know that young Violet is merely reciting what she's heard from the prostitutes. The photographer also says that Violet doesn't know what she's saying. You just want to turn the clock back, hug Violet and give her a proper childhood! The photographer marries her because he's fascinated with her beauty, innocence and is concerned that she is only a child and should not be in a brothel becoming a prostitute. The part where he gives her a doll is poignant as she has already lost her virginity and it seems that he's trying to give back her childhood, sadly she's been exposed to too much, too soon in her life. Susan Sarandon and Brooke Shields are wonderful in this movie as well as Keith Carradine, the photographer. The art aspect & music soundtrack are amazing. This movie deals with a taboo subject seen through the eyes of a child as 'normal' which enhances poignancy and brings out the viewers maternal need to 'rescue' young Violet.
39 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Only Louis Malle could have made this film,
Sarandon was flawless and seamless as usual (and never looked better). The long takes on the faces of the characters was noticeable but short of annoying. The sets were almost magical. They seemed so natural without all the usual, "Look folks, this is 1917!" kind of feeling you usually get with period piece photography. The milieu of the whore house in New Orleans in which little Violet wanders about in every room and every nook and at any time, day or night, seems natural and unforced. It's a huge child's playground in effect for the twelve-year-old who yearns to out-do mommie in being desirable to the johns.
The story line is strangely reserved. You keep expecting some real horror to explode in your face, and then you expect a heart sickening tragedy, Violet to be mutilated by one of her johns or perhaps exploited by some sick man, but the worst she gets is deflowered and slapped. The madame of the house (played brilliantly by an actress whose name I don't know) has her whipped for something, but she skips away from that saying it didn't hurt and runs off to the photographer she likes, played perhaps too Victorianly by Keith Carradine. I got the feeling he couldn't make up his mind whether he was Toulouse Lautrec, Vincent Van Gogh or Professor Henry Higgins and decided to go with all three. I expected to see him grovel a little for Brooke, or debase himself à la Philip in Of Human Bondage, but Malle spares us that.
The defining sequence in the movie, and the part that reveals the real tragedy of the little girl is when she goes to the photographer's house and they begin living together and he leaves her a note that she can't read (because she is illiterate) and we see her standing behind his iron fence watching the sailors walk by (perhaps the sailors are in her future). When he comes home and we see that her child's view of the world is so different than his, we know their relationship is doomed. But we also know that she has lost her childhood and will never have a normal adolescence. That is her tragedy.
The cinematography is beautiful without calling undue attention to itself. The whore house seems real enough as a sort of French salon cum New Orleans brothel, cum Dodge City saloon. We see Brooke as close to naked as perhaps we would want. The point of the photography is to show her physical beauty, but in a naturalistic, almost nonsexual way, to show the awkwardness of the child who is about to become a woman. She never looks worse than when she's painted up and thick with lipstick. We get the point. In the scene where she is deflowered we are "threatened" with horror (she screams, the john sneaks out and they discover her motionless on the bed). But she's only joking and they all get choked up at this "rite of passage." Malle makes it like a first kiss, which for her (his point) it is.
He gets to tell it like it is sometimes with young girls and men but spares us a lot of the shock by making it clear that Brooke Shields as Violet the 12-year-old prostitute is an exception to the general rule. Yet nothing is hid from us. The slavery of the prostitute's life and bondage to her trade is made clear. The tragedy of growing up in a whore house is not glossed over; it's just that the tragedy is sugar coated like our memories of childhood, and indeed the little girl has a lot of fun in the old whore house and we know that some of her memories will be fond ones.
Finally, Violet's mother comes back for her. She has made a successful marriage with her rich respectable husband. Violet goes to her and although her photographer husband objects, he knows it's inevitable: he must lose her. She asks "Can't you come too?" We, along with Keith Carradine, get to fathom that for a long moment or two before he lets her go. The great thing about this scene is that the arrival of the mother and her rich husband just destroys their "marriage." Kaboom. We immediately see that the child's higher loyalty and greater love is to and for the mother and not her husband and her marriage, a relationship she does not understand.
It's a strange tale, bravely told with a touch of gentle genius. I'm glad I didn't have to see all the warts, but I know they were there behind the gloss and Malle left them out on purpose: and the nearly idyllic world of the child prostitute is nothing like his fairy tale, but I thank him for it anyway; after all, these things have to be told in the form of fairy tales or myths otherwise we can't accept them.
--Dennis Littrell, author of "Cut to the Chaise Lounge or I Can't Believe I Swallowed the Remote!"
21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars BROOKE SPARKLES!!,
This review is from: Pretty Baby (DVD)After making a series of acclaimed and controversial films in his native France, director Louis Malle made his American debut with this disturbing but visually beautiful story about Hattie (Susan Sarandon), a prostitute working in New Orleans' Storyville district at the turn of the century. When Hattie becomes pregnant, she opts to keep her baby and gives birth to a daughter named Violet, raising her in the brothel where she continues to work. Twelve years later, Violet (Brooke Shields) is old enough to attract the attentions of the brothel's customers, but emotionally has one foot in the adult world of her surroundings and the other in the naïveté of childhood. With Hattie's consent, Violet's virginity is auctioned off to the customers of the house; but for Violet, the pull between childhood and adulthood becomes most clear - and most painful - when she draws the affections of Bellocq (Keith Carradine), a photographer who has been working on a photo series about Storyville prostitutes. Violet's blend of childlike innocence and adult sensuality is profoundly attractive to him, but their relationship quickly becomes problematic, especially when Hattie leaves Violet behind to get married.
This movie also has a great ragtime soundtrack and this music helps with the story too.
20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Totally Awesome, one of Brook Shield's best movies!!!,
By A Customer
78 of 93 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Storyville, New Orleans. 1917.,
Louis Malle in his earlier classic Murmur of the Heart examined bourgeois norms and found them to be far from moral, and in this movie he is examing what most deem an amoral atmosphere and finding much there that is admirable. He is celebrating moral freedom within the rich and racially diverse culture of New Orleans and he is examining moral hypocrisy as all the patrons are the wealthy and "respectable". Malle sets up an equation that perhaps parodies the age old artist/patron relationship. The most obvious arts being patronised are the sensual arts but also the mansion is a social club with its own jazz pianist, paintings on the wall, and there is a general joie de vivre that is lacking in the normal world. The brothel is seen as a kind of timeless sanctuary of the better things in life. Birth and death are kept out of the main parlor to preserve this illusion. At the end as this world that Malle and Nykvist have so carefully put together comes apart the mood is one of regret that it can't keep going on. This is not a message film and Malle is a director who does not insist you see things any particular way. Certainly the young Brooke Shields appearing as she does is meant to shock and no one thinks little girls should grow up to be prostitutes but the other extreme of growing up in the narrow confines of puritanical mainstream America also has its limits. The former world is amoral but it is lively and awakens the imagination and senses, the latter world is moral but overly protective and stultifying.
Malle leaves things unresolved and the photographer played by Kieth Carradine embodies the ambivalence best of all. Carradine is attracted to the prostitutes existence, and he seems at home with them(much in the same way an artist in the same period found himself at home in Paris)but he keeps his distance for awhile, treating them only as art objects. Once he steps over his own bounds though he becomes as morally questionable as the prostitutes themselves. At the end he is still divided as to what is the best life for young Violet. So among everything else in the movie you have this little allegory of the bohemian artist as well. Music throughout is by piano professor Jellyroll Morton who is thanked in a note at the end of the picture. Malle is a director who never made a bad picture, and never made an ordinary one as well. One of my all time favorite directors. Also recommended by Malle: Murmur of the Heart, Atlantic City, My Dinner w/Andre, Crackers, May Fools, Damage, Vanya on 42nd Street.
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I love you once. I love you twice. I love you more than beans and rice!,
This review is from: Pretty Baby (DVD)I like this movie and I have seen this countless of times. 'Pretty Baby' is a testament to the fact that the 70's were vastly more liberated than our times, at least when it comes to sexuality. In here pretty baby is twelve-year-old Violet, played by Brooke Shields. Violet has grown in the environment of a circa World War I whorehouse in New Orleans, where her mother Hattie (Susan Sarandon) practices the oldest of professions. She still acts like a child, one who likes to chase lizards in the underbrush and who throws tantrums when she doesn't get her way. When her mother leaves the brothel to start a respectable life, Violet remains and allows her virginity to be auctioned off to the highest bidder. She finds herself drawn to a photographer, Bellocq, who is taking portraits of Storyville prostitutes. Realizing that she is love, the young Violet declares her intention to marry Bellocq...
Brook performance literally carries this movie. Yes, the movie is quite explicit about the business of prostitution during that time, but it is never exploited and gives one the sense of how it really was, and what might happen to children born into prostitution. Malle's dispassionate take on all of this outraged viewers a quarter-century ago, but it all seems rather tame today. Perhaps too tame.........
Malle's restraint is so great at times that one wishes he'd pushed the envelope even more. But he got an amazing performance out of Shields, one that she never topped in her career as an actress -- Violet is a mesmerizing combination of innocent child and sly young woman, and that we never see her as a victim is to both her credit and Malle's. Some of the other acting in the film is less impressive, especially Frances Faye as the brothel's elderly owner, Nell -- she's simply horrible, turning in one of the worst performances seen outside of early John Waters' movies. Still, it's a beautiful movie. Its slow pace may frustrate some viewers, but 'Pretty Baby' is a gorgeous, emotionally stunning experience.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A work of art,
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This review is from: Pretty Baby (DVD)Very few movies are truly works of art. This is one of them. There are no explosions that throw bodies through the air, no sensational car crashes, no severed human limbs. Rather there is a plot that unfolds on its own good time, well drawn characters, excellently written dialogue, perfect atmosphere, and gorgeous photography.
Still, I understand why some might find the film objectionable. There is nudity, even nudity of a pubescent girl. There is open talk of sex. And some quasi moralists are more offended by that than by graphic violence. Sex, of course, is part of life and is legal, but it must not be shown or suggested very clearly. Murder, on the other hand, is illegal but is shown every night on TV with little protest from the moralists.
The acting here is seamless. Susan Sarandon gives her best performance, as does Brook Shields. But the performance that I found most startling was that of the bordello madame.
There was an area of New Orleans called Storyville, for some 20 years, where prostitution was confined, ending about World War I. That much of the plot is true. And the photographer Bellocq existed; some of his art has survived. But he didn't look anything like the character in this film, or so we are led to believe from descriptions of him.
I cannot recommend this movie highly enough. There is nothing I've seen like it. It is truly an art film.
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Pretty Baby by Louis Malle (DVD - 2003)