on January 15, 2013
I used to watch those NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC nature documentaries on television and, as much as any aspect, admired them for what must be the incredible amount of patience it takes to film animals and insects. For the 2011 documentary WHORES' GLORY, the logistics that went into the depiction of brothels in Thailand, Bangladesh, and Mexico must have required remarkable perseverance, too. Prostitutes, madams, pimps, and clients do not keep their backs to the camera, nor is anyone's face blurred.
So, what makes a brothel? While the cultures of those three countries differ, to me the answer is poverty. In this world you're among the few who don't have to compromise to survive or the many that do. WHORES' GLORY does not judge its subjects, instead presenting them doing what they can to stay alive and, if anything, telling the viewer we should show those women the respect they deserve.
See WHORES' GLORY.
The Austrian film director Michael Glawogger aptly describes his documentary "Whores' Glory" with the words in the title of this review. The film is the third in a series of documentaries, together with "Workingman's Death" and "Megacities" that Glawogger calls his "globalization trilogy", but knowledge of the earlier two films is unnecessary for the appreciation of this third documentary. The film offers a raw, intimate look at a profession that is both ancient and universal. Glawogger tries to approach prostitutes and their clients in a nonjudgmental, nonsentimenalized way as if the subject were being approached for the first time.
The film is a "triptych" because it examines prostitution in three diferent countries, Thailand, Bangladesh, and Mexico, each of which has its own political structure, economics, language, and dominant religion. The movie suggests that prostitution is closely tied to the mores of the country in which it occurs while it still fulfuills what appears to be a universal human need, both for the women and for their clients. The word "triptich" also has a religious connotation for Glawogger as he tries to treat his subjects with respect. In a similar way, the title "Whores' Glory" can be taken ironically. But Glawogger also wants to take "glory" seriously as "a gesture of respect for the working girls of the world." The women in the film struggle to maintain a degree of distance, independence, and self-respect.
The film does not use professional actors. Glawogger worked painstakingly in his three locations to get the consent of the women and their clients to appear in the film. The scenes are as candid as can be expected under the circumstances. The women and the men answer various interview questions but more often are seen interacting with one another. More than in any other line of work, time is money, and the women in the film were paid for their time.
The first part of the movie takes place in an establishment in Bangkok,Thailand called the Fish Bowl, which is patronized mostly by Thai natives and by Chinese rather than by Westerners. It is an upper middle class establishment and the women are shown trying to lead independent lives, and to arrive at work and leave by punching a clock. They sit behind a large predominantly one-way glass mirror that allows the guests to view them and make a selection. The girls are identified by numbers. The movie shows the girls behind the glass, getting ready for work, socializing afterwords, and in the early stages of interacting with their clients after they are chosen.
The second scene takes place in Faridphur,Bangladesh, a city with a fragile economy heavily dependent upon prostitution. It explores a large, filty, airless compound called "The City of Joy" inhabited by between 600 -- 800 women. Young girls are frequently sold into the compound, and once in, it is virtually impossible to escape.The women leave the compound only rarely. The business often is passed down by families from mother to daughter. In the film, prostitutes line the dark, dungeon-like walkways of the compound beckoning to clients, both their regulars and newcomers. There are scenes of the rooms and of women, old and young, discussing their activities with the film director. In one scene, a 15 year old prostitute tells Glawogger: "We try to forget sadness with a little laughter but the pain remains."
The final scene of the film is set in the "Zone of Toleration" in an alley in Reynosa, Mexico, near the Texas border. Men cruise the streets at all hours in cars and on foot. The women make the first move when they sense a man is interested. The women in Renosa tend to worship an ancient goddess of death as the pursue their business. The movie shows the drug, alcohol and violence laden world of the women while also showing their persistence and cameraderie. This portion of the film shows, unlike the first two sections, and encounter between a woman and a man from the moment of their first encounter on the street, through the cold, business-like, and not fully consummated transaction in the apartment, and concluding with the farewell. It is an unsentimental, unerotic business.
There is little that is erotically exciting in this film. But the movie offers a difficult to find, insightful look at prostitution. The scenes of the brothels and the streets are lurid but convincing. The movie accords the women in their vulnerability and toughness a grudging respect. "Whore's Glory" is not a pretty movie, but it rewards watching by anyone who wants to try to understand prostitution.
on October 11, 2012
This film is documentary film making at its best. I don't think it's possible to overrate this film. Just setting aside the content/narrative (which is intense, complex, beautifully and patiently told), the sheer beauty of the lighting will knock your socks off. I don't know how this film COULD have been made, let alone HOW it was made. This film also heavily blurs the line between candid moments and staged moments, the real and the fictitious, which is consistent with the content behind and within sex as a commodity, and in my view, an essential element in documentary film making. Just phenomenal.
on March 8, 2016
Even though I hate reading subtitles, I still love this documentary. I would of never thought Bangladesh had sex slums like the one's that was shown in this film and on top of that, the Bangladesh whores where the aggressor's by physically forcing the men to have sex with them, that's unsually for a woman. And a Mexican prostitute running nude out in public just feeling free like she has no care in the world. I thought in the end when they show the Mexican whore having sex with her client, she was B%&chy towards him, she really needs to work on her people skills.
I just wish this documentary would of showed prostitution in the Dominican Republic. I saw youtube videos of prostitution life in Dominican Republic and it is big in that country.
on April 28, 2015
Glawogger passes no judgment upon the prostitutes whose business his documentary describes, but neither does he pass any judgment upon the society that drives so many unfortunates to take up this line of work. The all-seeing unseeing eye of his camera observes these lives as though they take place in a fishbowl, isolated and insulated from us and incapable of having much of an impact on us by identifying with the humanity of its subjects. Indeed their humanity and the inward struggles and conflicts they must suffer are made invisible under Glawogger’s annealing lens. As soon as a suggestion of human conflict begins to congeal, Glawogger switches to another subject, another glossy frame, and the tension is lost. A year or more after watching it, only two women’s stories stand out in memory. One is a mother of several children in Faridpur, Bangladesh preparing to begin her day’s work on behalf of her family and a younger handsome boyfriend whom she supports and says she loves – flipframe, goodbye. Another is a sex-worker in Reynosa, Mexico who is the only prostitute who seemed to have gotten what she wanted from the job. She says that she is horny most of the time, that she “still likes cock, and I cum doing it,” – flipframe, goodbye.