So I’ve decided to make this week something of a “theme week” and watch a documentary every day. Just to keep things interesting. I figured I was off to a good start with an Oscar-winner on Sunday, and an Oscar-nominee yesterday, but today I decided to veer off in a decidedly different direction… and that was probably a mistake.
Today’s movie is Whore’s Glory, a film from Austrian director Michael Glawogger, documenting the lives of prostitutes working in three very different brothels in very different parts of the world. Glawogger is apparently renowned for his fly-on-the wall style documentaries documenting poverty in different parts of the world. I’ve certainly heard of, but not seen his acclaimed film Workingman’s Death. This film is his follow-up, and having seen it, I’m significantly less interested in seeing that prior film.
Whores’ Glory is divided into three independent sections. The first visits a professional, almost corporate mid-range bordello in Bangkok where tourists and locals alike can rent attractive young women with a credit card, the second takes us to the abject poverty of a brothel in Bangladesh where domineering madams pressure girls to sell themselves for what amounts to a couple of dollars, while the third section focuses on a low-rent section of a Mexican red-light district and crack whores therein.
It is interesting to see the different settings and cultures. The Thai girls are oddly middle-class, the Mexicans curt but casual, while Bangladesh shows us crowds, chaos, and utter poverty. Of course, none of this is all that unexpected. In each country Glawogger introduces us to a lot of prostitutes, but they’re all from the same place, and similarly situated. Therefore, we’re provided neither breadth nor depth but a lot of redundancy.
Considering that the film is about sex work, it’s actually pretty chaste, (apart from a scene of some dogs that seems to go on forever, for no particular reason.) We see a lot of solicitation, negotiation, and some vivid description, but aside from some moderate “over the clothes” groping the camera doesn’t see any “action”. Glawogger must have gotten bored with this by the time he got to Mexico, however, because out of nowhere, it gets real. All of a sudden there’s nudity, (though, not from anyone I’d want to see naked,) then in the last twenty minutes we’re treated to a vivid scene of one of the whores on a “date” with a young man, and then later with a woman who provides her with some crack. It’s odd.
The film takes a provocative subject and manages to make it astonishingly boring largely because it’s utterly, depressingly, predictable. What’s worse, it just goes on and on forever. This might have worked if it had been presented as a three part series, or cut down to an hour, or even a 90 minute feature would have been an improvement, but the takes a leisurely two hours to get across the message that prostitutes the world-wide live a sad and generally miserable existence. No kidding, Herr Glawogger. This is really an unnecessary film that takes two hours to say what could have been better expressed in less than one; I’d recommend you avoid it.