RIFF Review: Whores’ Glory
In Michael Glawogger’s Whores’ Glory the viewer is delved into three different worlds of prostitution. A professional, “classy” whorehouse in Bangkok, Thailand, a poor, dirty prostitute neighborhood of sorts in the poorest part of Bangladesh and “The Zone”, a kind of prostitution district, in Mexico.
What we have here is possibly the rawest, truest and ugliest view of the life of prostitution ever put on film. Glawogger shows us three different worlds all of which are very foreign to westerners but also very different to each other. Each of them is ugly in their own way but some are clearly worse than others. The Whorehouse in Thailand actually doesn’t seem that bad with the whores (it seems) seeing prostitution as just another job and their bosses seem to take good care of them. They own fancy clothes and get their hair done every day and most of the clients look like pretty regular guys. In Bangladesh on the other hand the girls prostitute themselves because they have no other choice, it’s all they’re able to do and their live ain’t pretty. In Mexico however, it seems to be a way of life for some with one whore describing it as great life. “Getting paid for having fun” as she puts it.
Whores’ Glory is, simply put, an incredibly powerful documentary which introduces the viewer to three ugly, often bizarre, worlds and manages to make him understand to a certain extent how these worlds work. No one is judged, the viewer gets to make his own decisions, and it never feels like emotional porn. But neither is it a completely neutral view. The interviewees are deftly chosen and we are shown all the dirty sides of it by simply having these people talk. The right questions are asked and the clients reveal their sleaziness with their answers while the whores reveal the desperation of their situations. But it’s also clear that prostitution is not always the totally evil, nasty thing it seems to be (thought of course it mostly is). There’s at least one prostitute in Mexico who loves the job.
Another element which makes this movie stand out is the directorial style. From this movie it’s clear that Glawogger as a major stylist and it’s refreshing to see a documentary that actually looks gorgeous and in which interesting things are done with framing and lighting which both make the movie look good and also serve to reflect the films’ themes. It’s a real movie as opposed to the glorified TV special many documentaries actually are. This is one documentary that fits the big screen and truly benefits from it, a true work of art, so to speak.
The use of music here is also often pretty strong though it maybe goes a little too far at times. In between interviews and the camera simply observing these whores’ lives we get artful montages set to the likes of PJ Harvey.
Whores’ Glory it not just an exploration and observation of the world of the prostitute but it also works as a comment on the state of the world, the state of the human spirit even. This movie shows us a world with people who have no qualms with cheating on their spouses or objectifying women, people who think prostitution makes life better for everyone because the women would otherwise “be raped on the streets” and “how else can people release their sexual tension?” to paraphrase one Bangladeshi barber.
The film does come on the verge of being exploitative at times (like the scene where we actually get to watch a prostitute and her client “do the deed”, hard to say if it was necessary but then again maybe it is) and while it does justify its almost two-hour length by being consistently fascinating and riveting for the most part it might have benefited from a tiny bit of editing, but these are minor quibbles in a mostly brilliant film.
Final verdict: A powerful portrait of an ugly world, though-provoking and informative without being too didactic or manipulative. It’s also incredibly stylish and gorgeous looking. It does drag a little, with perhaps one too many musical montage, but overall it’s an amazing and important film.
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