have you all seen the 1978 movie Pretty Baby?
addie has been telling me about it for years and finally darin and i watched it.
i directly fell in love with the lush new orleans ambience, and you all know i fancy old brothels.
the hats, slips, corsets, bloomers, petticoats, stockings, eyelet lace and cleavage...i was dying.
the subject matter is somewhat difficult. brooke shields plays 12-year-old Violet, growing up in the brothel with her mother's (a glorious Susan Sarandon) nonchalant guidance.
saucy young Violet is over sexualized and objectified, and the film doesn't seem overly concerned about that fact. i kind of appreciated that indifference, as if glimpsing some other world with a completely different set of values, without judgment. however the scenes are shown with such grace and beauty that you get the feeling the director Louis Malle was somehow getting off on the whole thing. i guess that's what i found a tad disturbing.
if you've seen it, did it bother you? they say it was meant to be shocking in the 1970s, but i don't really think so. it is too dreamy, moves too slowly through its thoughtful and provocative scenes. more like the filmmaker didn't find it so shocking at all, just a portrait of a (highly romanticized) bygone time.
i was interested in the photographer who comes to stay at the brothel (even though his character totally creeped me out and disgusted me). E.J Bellocq was a real turn of the century New Orleans photographer and some of his images of the Storyville prostitutes survived.
following are a few of his real portraits. storyville was bellocq's pet subject, the red light district of new orleans from 1897 to 1917. i love to think about these women, the real women, their lives, the moment of the photograph, the babies being born and their grief and struggles, their cats and ruffles and breasts and men, all different kinds of men, rough and kind alike.
prostitution is such a strange and complex piece of human history, a tormented crossroads between sex and commodity that leaves behind scars and stories.
i am interested in art that dares to take on such haunted histories.