For Reel

Whores’ Glory (2011)
April 12, 2012, 5:15 am
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Michael Glawogger

Sex workers from three brothels around the world are profiled in Michael Glawogger’s latest documentary, Whores’ Glory. The Fish Tank of Bangkok, Thailand sees the women sit in a sterile environment on one side of a glass barrier while the customers window-shop from the other. In Faridpur, Bangladesh, a multi-story complex is run down and crowded, and young girls, some barely past puberty, literally pull their customers in off of the streets. Finally, in La Zona of Reynosa, Mexico, women enticingly stand in the motel-like doorways of a secluded block as the men drive past. There are few surprises in the presentation of prostitute life – in fact, at times the picture seems to skirt the full extent of the exploitation suffered by the women – but Glawogger’s subjects are all captivating, and the sense of place so vivid, thanks to cinematographer Wolfgang Thaler’s studied attention to detail and the occasional, but never overbearing, visual flourish. This, in addition to Monika Willi’s surely monumental feat of editing and a fitting soundtrack featuring PJ Harvey and CocoRosie, completes an impressive technical package, which establishes a pace that never feels redundant. The sex happens off screen until the very end in which, in graphic detail, Glawogger focuses on an interaction with a shy, stingy customer and a drug-addicted worker. It is an inevitable development in the narrative, but in the way in which the woman handles the man, who stubbornly attempts to haggle, it becomes one of the few empowering moments in the film (occurring, thankfully, just before a devastating, fitting conclusion that once again establishes the darkest aspects of sex work). Had Glawogger’s ambitions been broader, this might have been an indispensable sociological artifact, but nonetheless it is a great feat of documentary filmmaking and, if not necessarily illuminating, utterly captivating.


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