Saturday, July 12, 2014

PRETTY BABY is one for the creepers, uh I mean, ages

Louis Malle's PRETTY BABY (1978) is set largely in an uptown brothel around the turn of the century; Brooke Shields plays the 12-year-old lead character. If this set-up suggests troubling possibilities to you, well, you've read the film's mind, because it dives right into all of them and then some. Child prostitution, auctioning off virgins, you name it, it happens. Most shockingly, this stuff is often celebrated by the characters, as people of that world did in that time and place. The film's depiction is so deadpan that when it was released people accused it of promoting child pornography (spoiler alert: it doesn't).

The great Polly Platt wrote the script and produced it. Platt should be considered a towering figure in 70s cinema, having been a major player on dozens of timeless classics, and rarely making a misstep. However, institutionalized sexism, ahoy.

The film's New Orleans content is pretty thin in terms of geography and exteriors, seeing as how it's largely set inside. But PRETTY BABY truly nails the New Orleans personality types, especially among the women in the brothel, a colorful set of ne'er-do-wells spanning four generations. The madame in particular stands out as the apotheosis of every bar owner I've ever met in NOLA, male or female.

PRETTY BABY: excellent film, but not Essential NOLA Cinema.

NEXT: IINTERVIEW WITH A VAMPIRE which I've been avoiding successfully for 24 years. Sigh.

1 comment :

  1. The only time I have ever seen my father alive is in scenes of "Pretty Baby," where he was an extra in a couple of scenes. Needless to say, I've watched this film several times.