House of Tolerance.

L'Apollonide.

Independence comes in many forms and in French film director Bertrand Bonello (Tiresia (2003)) latest offering he suggests, quite controversially in my opinion, that being a prostitute in a Parisian brothel at the dawning of the 20th century offers twelve young ladies a type of liberation. But to be fair to Bonello he does make an attempt to show the down side to this lifestyle including drug addiction, sexually transmitted diseases and disfiguring violence. 

Crying tears of sperm.

The main star of House of Tolerance (2010) is actual the brothel, L’Apollonide, a lavish stage like set up, that’s like a luxurious but decadent, five star hotel from which the film never strays. We see the girls with their clients and we also see them when ‘off duty’ and learn about their relationships with each other: they’re rivalries, their hopes, that are mainly connected with dreams of marrying their rich clients and their uncertainties associated with the fact that the brothel will be closed down and they will end up on the streets.

Its the women who are at the forefront of this story.

Strangely the film is not really about sex it’s about the final days of a disappearing community. One in which friendships have been forged, not only between the girls, but also between the girls and their clients. The film does however concentrate on the women involved and leaving the men as mere bystanders. A hauntingly sad, and on the whole rather genteel film where your empathy is with the women who choose to earn their living working in the sex trade surrounded with ‘the stink of sperm and champagne’ rather than manual labour in mills and factories which at that time was as equally harmful to your health! A fascinating film in many respects and please do not be put off by the subject matter.