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  • I'd like to point out that this movie is literally based on first hand recollections of a prostitute interviewed in Al Rose's definitive book on the subject: "Storyville", published many years ago. Anyone familiar with with the era knows that the photographer, E.J. Bellocq, was a real person who captured on glass plates forever the images of the young prostitutes of Storyville. These photographs are hauntingly beautiful in their own right, and the young Brooke Shields--as well as the beautiful Susan Sarandon--were a masterstroke of Malle to play the parts of mother and daughter prostitutes. The recollections in the book draw upon the actual fact that the mother who related the story actually took part in the deflowering of her daughter in the "House" as described, and that they went on to be a "team", a very common and desirable commodity in that day. Not mentioned-- but inferred to those who "read between the lines"-- was that the pony that young Violet casually rides in the backyard of the mansion in the beginning of the movie was actually an animal used to entertain the paying customers in "the circus" that certain women performed in ...for the"right price." Many of the photo sessions depicted in the film are loving recreations of surviving Bellocq prints. The women portraying the "girls" in the movie could have been working girls in "The District" had they lived back then. Some IMDb readers profess to be shocked by conditions in Storyville back then, but as the book recounts, it was all true, and many of the women actually did enjoy their livelyhood. It was the "bluenoses" to the rescue who saved them and the U.S. Navy from themselves, just as they would save the nation from "drink" a few years later. Although ragtime and jazz are touched on in the movie, Storyville was directly responsible for the likes of young Louis Armstrong--who ran coal from House to House--picking up the street melodies he heard and playing them on a cornet furnished to him--providentially--by the local orphanage, and for Ferdinand "Jelly Roll" Morton, pianist...and pimp...who played in only the best houses and claimed he invented the term "jazz" as applied to music after witnessing first hand all that "jassing-around" he saw in the bordellos of Storyville! Remarkeably, overlooked altogether is any mention of the composer of the tune "Pretty Baby," Professor Tony Jackson, a key figure of the Storyville saga, who should have been the character portrayed in the film but wasn't, and who was not even mentioned in the credits.

    As for Bellocq himself not much is known except that he was slightly deformed and not interested in the ladies at all sexually-- the marriage to Violet merely a modern plot device--but he professed his deep fascination and reverence for them, thankfully, in other ways: his portraits. Without them, a poignant record of their lives,and that of The District, would be lost forever. All in all, the film is a wonderful paean to Bellocq, and the women he loved in his own way. I would urge all critics of this movie to seek out a copy of "Storyville, New Orleans" by Al Rose, or MOMA's "E.J. Bellocq: Storyville Portraits." They will really open yours eyes to what Louis Malle has recreated.
  • A beautifully filmed movie which tells a difficult story with a subtlety and power that leaves you thinking about it during odd moments for days. It's that much more disconcerting because all the while you're keenly aware that this isn't based on "a true story" but on millions of true stories throughout history, including today, and in every part of the globe.

    Due to my age I'd never seen 'Pretty Baby' in the theater or, for some reason, read much about it. I was aware of the basic plot but didn't know I'd be seeing quite so much of a naked 12 year-old Brooke Shields. A couple of moments were honestly difficult for me to watch, but I've come to the conclusion that the nudity is absolutely essential to the telling of the story. You *have* to be forced to see exactly what those men were paying for.

    The brilliance of director Loius Malle's film is that he constantly subverts the audience's desire to be aghast at what we see. The camera finds happy little moments throughout the movie, your mind is left to fill in the ugly realities. This trend continues to the end, which is like a cruel mirror image of the typical happily ever after Hollywood ending.
  • At the time of its release, PRETTY BABY attracted a lot of controversy for its subject matter and matter-of-fact nudity of pre-teen Brook Shields (Violet).

    Now it would probably not get made at all -- which is a shame, because it's a solidly written and directed drama.

    The late Louis Malle, who also directed the amazing BLACK MOON, approaches the subject of child prostitution without judgement or moralizing.

    The film's effectiveness comes from a script that does not burden any of its characters with explanatory dialog. Most of the dialog heard is of the incidental kind. Characters do not pause to explain situations or pontificate. Malle captures glances, body language, reflections and uses the non-verbal to tell his very human story of a New Orleans cathouse.

    Susan Sarandon, as Violet's prostitute mother, turns in a fine performance as a woman in denial of her reality. Keith Carradine, who plays a photographer who falls in love with Violet, delivers a perfectly tuned performance with little more than than a dozen lines of dialogue. Also worth nothing is the beautiful performance of Francis Faye as Nell, the cathouse madam. She brings a sharp gift for irony to her role.

    Brooke is very, very good, too, and this was the performance of her career.
  • Dale655 July 1999
    Warning: Spoilers
    Louis Malle is one of the late geniuses of film. "Pretty Baby" is one of his most beautiful achievements. Telling the story of a lonely photographer's obsession with a precocious twelve-year old prostitute named Violet(Brooke Shields) in New Orleans early in the century.

    The photographer (Keith Carradine) eventually allows Violet to move in with him, and then marries her. In a wonderful scene, Carradine buys Violet a baby doll. She is thrilled, but then asks why he bought her a doll. "Every child should have a doll" he replies. Shields reaction is perfect, she is angered that he still thinks of her as a child, but cannot help but play with the doll in the very next scene.

    Shields hits all the right notes here. She goes from sexy and alluring, to childish and innocent with a snobbish pout. She is charmingly free-spirited from being raised in a brothel, and often appears totally naked in front of strange men many times her age. Prostitution is all that she knows, and Malle does not shy away from it.

    This film was largely shunned when it was first released. It seems, having read some of the other comments here, that the trend continues. This is a mature film, for mature minds. See it and enjoy.
  • Beautifully photographed and sumptuous to watch. Brooke Shields, with that famous saucy and spirited personality, is gorgeous. I wasn't bothered by the nudity. I wasn't bothered by the story either and I feel the movie accurately portrayed a different time with a quite different moral tone than the one we live with today. But, hey, stories are just stories. Actually, I think the main reason this movie works is because it comes across as honest, it feels like being in another place and another time, and it's lovely to see.
  • "Pretty Baby" (1978): Usually, when a controversial film comes out, the hubbub dies off in a few weeks. Later, people wonder why anyone got upset at all. In this case, I think the opposite is the case. There WAS some buzz about "Pretty Baby" when it premiered in 1978, but NOW? People would be killing the director, photographer, and screen writers in the names of Decency & Righteousness. It's a crazy world. Photographed by Sven Nykvist (Ingmar Bergman's photographer), Louis Malle directed this Polly Platt screenplay about the real life New Orleans documentary photographer E.J. Bellocq. He spent much of his career photographing those no one else would – the prostitutes of N.O. - and eventually became involved with a young girl (Brooke Shields) raised by her prostitute single mother (Susan Sarandon), to be a prostitute herself. There's an interesting push/pull to this film. It is SO beautifully photographed, and the prostitutes shown SO human, there is much warmth in the scenes, yet the facts remain difficult to accept – life was what it was, and they did what they had to do to survive in the turn-of-the-century South. This is NOT a story of tragedy (except in personal terms that have nothing to do with the profession). Most everyone went about their days in matter-of-fact acceptance of their "station" in life, and did not get ulcers. They had a roof, decent money, good food, servants, and a place to raise their "accident" children. "Pretty Baby" asks you to step outside your contemporary world and standards, and try, just for two hours, to see another point of view. It's an interesting challenge…perhaps more now than even a mere 30 years ago.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    There are a couple of reasons to see this well-executed movie.

    One is Brooke Shields in her only believable performance, as a defiant self-absorbed brat who learns not just about sex but about love. She is, of course, dazzlingly beautiful and barely pubescent and it's necessary to get beyond that. Value judgments about whether she should or should not have made this movie aren't really relevant. The movie is too good for that. Throwing up our hands and rolling our eyes is a little like interpreting "Lolita" as a simple story about pedophilia. Looked at pragmatically, Shields' playing this role hurt no one. Certainly it didn't hurt her subsequent career, what there was of it. There isn't any way to stop our own feelings of disgust at times, granted. I feel that way about movies like Friday the 13th or Halloween. I'm more disgusted by murder than by sex so I'm clearly warped. Shields packs more talent into her playing here, as Violet, than she did into all of her other movies put together. And it's not a one-note performance either. She develops from a vulgar know-it-all into a creature of real emotion. At the end of the story, her mother is taking her away from the older man she has married. The camera slowly moves in on her trembling face. She's silent but the froufraws in her hair quiver with regret. Malle ends it on a freeze frame of that drop-dead gorgeous, wrenchingly sad face.

    Malle is another reason this movie is worth while. He was a great story teller, even when the stories were a bit thin, as Polly Platt's is here. His specialite de la maison was the study of a community. He was almost anthropological in his approach. If he doesn't give us the social structure and eidos of a French boarding school, then it's Atlantic City, or a New Orleans whorehouse in 1917. We get to know the milieu pretty well, although we don't see much of the actual city, only the house itself, its back yard paved with coquina crunching under everyone's shoes, the palms and banana plants, the anoles. We get to know the furniture inside the house -- massive heavy things, overstuffed, overdone, overlaced, rose windowed. New Orleans was an odd city, a blend of all sorts of ethnic traditions. There's a bit of hoodoo thrown into the plot. (Madame Livingston addresses her clients as "M'sieur.") Edgar Degas visited relatives in New Orleans. Now, alas, it's becoming not much more than another big Southern city with the Quarter serving as a kind of theme park. Note too Malle's editing technique. When you expect a shot to disappear, to dissolve or be cut away from, it doesn't always happen. The image lingers, sometimes long beyond our expectations. Keith Carradine balked when Shields is taken away from him, for instance.

    Much of this beauty (let's call a heart a heart) is made possible by the superb photography of Ingmar Bergman's collaborator, Sven Nyquist. He makes it possible for us to almost feel the heat and the humidity, and the solid mahogany of the bar.

    The depiction of the cat house is convincingly realistic, the general atmosphere being one of casual jealousy, petulance, nudity, practicality, and mutual support. The women (and the clients) form fleeting friendships. When they leave, it's without any particular ceremony. That's why the love that develops between Carradine and Shields is as shocking as it is. It's the only real commitment shown in the film. There is an abundance of commitment on the part of the people who contributed to this very good film.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Twenty one years later, I finally rented the video of Pretty Baby out of curiosity. What a surprise. Brooke Shields was amazing: coquettish, playful, a brat, a frightened child, and at times mature beyond her years. How Malle managed the nudity scenes with her I'll never know. Without saying a single word Carradine produced the most poignant scene in the film when Violet asks, "Can't we all go?" as her mother returns to reclaim her. Throughout the film the silence of characters was astounding: the look in the eyes of the piano player as Violet was being auctioned off. The auction itself! What a travesty. The flavor of turn-of-the-century New Orleans was rich with decadence and bawdiness. If ever a child was a product of her environment, Violet was. Yes, this was a disturbing film, but there redeeming qualities to it. See if you can find them.
  • Louis Malle did an amazing job of portraying the Storyville life (red light district), and the lives of the women caught up in it. He gets the finest work out of his cast, and demonstrates what it makes him a master filmmaker: not someone who just makes movies to impress other directors, but someone who touches an audience.

    He begins and ends the film with the camera slowly closing in on the wide eyes of its child-lead, making you wonder how her life will proceed, having seen what she's seen. It makes you wonder whether marriage, in those times, was any different for a woman than prostitution. Mostly, you have to wonder how Violet could adapt to normal life, with the strange perspective she's had on it so far.

    The petulance and "spoiled"ness described in the review below, are merely her childishness, to illustrate that she is an ordinary child in bizarre circumstances. For those not carried away by Shields' appearance, this made the film very poignant -- this child doesn't even know that there is any other way to live.

    And the viewer can put away concerns for Shields herself: the nude scenes were done by a body-double, despite what is listed in the "trivia" section of this listing. (I know someone who later worked with the body double.)
  • I think it was a fine piece of film making about a horrific situation. I agree with a previous poster that its understated tone was one of its strengths. The film maker presents a detailed, rounded view of the lifestyle and its effects on a girl who is much too young and much too pretty to have been allowed to ply her trade.

    One of the ways I judge the strength of a film is the extent to which I wonder "what happens next?" after the closing credits. I would say the film succeeded. From the expression on Violet's face in the closing shot, I think she had been so warped by everything she had seen and done that, no matter what, she would never be able to become a normal woman living a normal life. My fear is that whether she went back to prostitution or lived a presumptively respectable life, she would always be ignorant, impulsive, self-centered and someone who used her appearance to manipulate others. After all, she, like everyone else in the world, can only know what she has been taught.
  • Maretha24 May 2005
    I really liked this film for what it is. I also think that it is undoubtedly the most eye-opening film I ever saw in terms of the reality of the daily life of some people. Violet grew up in this house full of prostitutes, without a childhood, never knowing how to behave as a child. She grew up knowing how to behave in order to promote business in their 'house'. The deflowering ritual that Violet had to undergo would have scared me senseless, and it is pitifully sad to think that she looked forward to it, only because then the other women in the house would really take her seriously. The fact of the matter is, this is a true story and people should watch it, even if only to realise how grateful we should be for not living in times like that, for growing up in times where we are actually given a choice.
  • In 1917, in the red light district Storyville, New Orleans, the prostitute Hattie (Susan Sarandon) lives with her twelve year-old daughter Violet (Brooke Shields) in the fancy brothel of Madame Nell (Frances Faye), where she works. The photographer Ernest J. Bellocq (Keith Carradine) has an attraction to Hallie and Violet and he is an habitué of the whorehouse.

    One day, Madame Nell auctions Violet's virginity and the winner pays the fortune of US$ 400.00 to spend the night with the girl. Then Hattie marries a wealthy client and moves to Saint Louis, leaving Violet in the brothel alone. Violet decides to marry Bellocq and she moves to his house. Until the day that Hattie, who has overcome her past, comes to Bellocq's house with the intention to take Violet with her.

    "Pretty Baby" is one of the boldest coming of age film, even thirty-four years after its release date. The story of a very young prostitute, apparently based on a true story, is supported by the beauty of the only promising Brooke Shields, great cast, magnificent cinematography and the talent of Louis Malle that keeps the film in the level of art and never vulgar. My vote is eight.

    Title (Brazil): Not Available
  • Warning: Spoilers
    This is an exceptional film - not because most of the critics say so, but for me because I cannot think of any other film which left me with a greater feeling of having been temporarily transported to another world in a place and time with which I was totally unfamiliar.

    Many IMDb users have reviewed and commented on this film and another full review is unnecessary, but bringing out its exceptional nature and encouraging those who have not seen it to do so does require some supplementation. Comments about the nudity in this film not being disturbing come into this category. Today nudity occurs in films for two principal reasons, firstly because it would be natural for the character concerned under the circumstances being depicted by the film, or secondly because it is being used by the director to add a little eye candy intended to increase the visual appeal of the film. In the latter case the viewers personal reaction will govern the response to such eye candy, (typically for example, regardless of whether or not they themselves appreciate it, many viewers feel that this is very inappropriate for younger viewers and all films should provide advance warning when it is present). But where the nudity is an integral part of the story being presented, viewers who wish to see this story should not find it disturbing unless the nude scenes are excessive or gross. Pretty Baby is not such a film, it is one where Louis Malle has minimized his use of nudity - any less and the nature and character of the scenario he has to depict could become distorted. He should be commended on his restraint which may have made it much easier for some viewers to concentrate on the more serious issues raised in the film.

    When this film was first released the sequence showing the brothel auctioning the virginity of their new girl to the highest bidder raised a lot of eyebrows, and clearly many in the audiences had not appreciated that this practice used to be commonplace. Most viewers found the sequence disturbing, but in Pretty Baby the fact that Violet had been raised to expect this, and was looking forward to it as an important step towards entering adult life, greatly reduced its impact. Another film, French Quarter, which was released the same year as Pretty Baby, was the story of an orphaned girl who had been strictly brought up on a farm, but who had had to take refuge in a city brothel to avoid starvation when her parents died. Those who saw it will remember that it included a similar auction which I for one found much more harrowing to watch as it clearly showed the trauma inflicted on an unprepared and very reluctant young girl, starting of course as she was being stripped and paraded for public exhibition. Any such sequences provide very uncomfortable viewing for most men, who tend to thankfully take refuge in a conviction that they could never occur today.

    Other scenes showing the exploitation inherent in life as it was lived in Storyville in 1917 were also found to be disturbing by many viewers; and some comments even suggest a widely held conviction that we live in a more moral society today. Before we condemn our forbears we should perhaps examine this conviction in more detail. In Europe and North America we have quite recently moved away from a society where marriages among the upper classes were regarded as primarily intended to enhance social status and generate offspring. Wives frequently did not love their husbands and, although they dutifully provided children, they were often happy for him to exercise his virility with paid companions. Visits to a local brothel, where regular customers could became friendly with all the staff, were condoned or even approved. This often led to a reasonably stable environment for the young women concerned. Today most of us would strongly disapprove of such lifestyles, and would rightly emphasize how far we have progressed by ensuring young people have the opportunity to choose their own lifetime partner; but we still need to be honest about the problems this new lifestyle has created today. There were few Robert Pickton's feeding twenty-six victims to his pigs in Victorian times. Today we frequently encounter police warnings about serial killers; in Victorian times Jack the Ripper was a much more unique character. Too many of today's prostitutes shiver in the rain or snow on street corners throughout long evenings each night, periodically spending an infrequent few uncomfortable minutes in a car - each time at an unknown risk to themself - and are forced afterwards to give almost all their takings to a pimp attached to the local street gang. We need to recognize that many of them would probably regard living in a comfortable and stable brothel, such as that depicted in this film, as akin to heaven on earth.

    Ultimately this is the powerful message from Pretty Baby that makes it such an exceptional film; but because the Director decided to employ a totally non-judgmental documentary type presentation and to minimise any direct emotional appeal, most viewers probably only recognize it when scenes returned to their memory during the hours and days after they left the cinema, and I do not believe its rare combination of beautiful imagery and haunting power has so far been brought out adequately by the comments on this database.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I saw this movie for the first time on the Los Angeles based "Z" Channel in the early 80's. (Gosh, I miss that channel!!!)

    (Minor Spoilers)

    In watching it, my first reaction was saddness...because this told of a story of children who were raised in a brothel. This one particular beautiful daughter of one of the female prostitutes was destined to live a life just as her mother, a prostitute, for the daughter knew of no other life. Her mother did eventually leave the brothel in one of her selfish modes, but left her very young daughter there who experienced life very quickly -- for she saw nothing wrong with that life.

    20 years later, I look at this movie again on the HBO network and after living some years I gotta tell you, this movie now upsets me to watch. I found it difficult to look at a pre-pubescent Brooke Shields run around naked with grown men, including Keith Carradine, even though this was part of the script and part of the film -- it wasn't meant to be gratitutious or stimulating. But now -- I just wanted to smack her mother for allowing her almost teen daughter to do this. I wanted to smack myself for ever watching it. And ya know what? That IS the point of film.

    This is what makes this film disturbing and captivating at the same time. The IDEA this occured in our Century makes one furious and that story is being told so we can look back and make sure it never occurs again. But...the realization of SEEING it on film dramatically portrayed by Brooke Sheilds as the daughter, Susan Sarandon as the self-centered, prostitute mother and Keith Carradine as the grown Photographer is what gets to you.

    I remember reading where many movie seekers saw this as Louis Malle's "kiddie porn" and wanted the film banned. I guess its all in your personal comfort level. But be warned, this is an adult film with very adult subject matter... NOT a subject or film for many.
  • This now infamous film, directed by Louis Malle, is without a doubt one that may shock and disturb many who view it. Even more so now than by the 1978 social standards when it was released. However, those who will not succumb to the possible knee-jerk and reactionary "puritanical outrage" that some of the imagery might invoke and can understand how it significantly contributes to the story itself, will come to witness an interesting and beautifully toned glimpse into the final days of legal prostitution within the red light district of pre 1920s New Orleans.

    A young Brooke Shields delivers a convincing, yet subtle and sincere performance as Violet, the underage prostitute whom the story centers around. Keith Carradine's loose portrayal of famed Louisiana photographer E. J. Bellocq (who was an actual photographer of the time that captured images of the prostitutes in this particular district) was an excellent incorporation into the storyline and adds a certain sense of credibility to the film, in relation to it being set within the particular era.

    The additional acting talents of Susan Sarandon and Antonio Fargas also do well in bringing this tale, based on the true accounts of a young New Orleans prostitute who worked in the actual Storyville district, to life.

    It's so authentic in it's "flavor" in fact that it won the "Technical Grand Prize" at the 1978 Cannes Film Festival.

    This sad and true to life film guides us through not only a more primitive time in American history; one when many children (not only those subject to lives of prostitution) failed to even have the option of any childhood at all, but through the eyes of innocence and all the love and beauty and memories that those eyes found even within what many would only see as the most unforgivable of environments for innocence, or even hope.

    It's through THOSE eyes one must look to see the true beauty and love that went into the crafting of this historically memorable film.
  • Pretty Baby started off very well and I immediately thought: This is gonna be a gem! But it seemingly lost steam in the second half, petering out quite disappointingly towards the end. It was as if Louis Malle had been in a bit of a rush to conclude the story. Brooke Shields really was an angelically beautiful child - she seemingly peeked so early! The atmosphere in the brothel scenes was the best thing about the movie, probably helped by the fact that the photographer Bellocq's real photographs were used to get a sense of the time and place and evoke it with authenticity. Viewers particularly touchy to the issue of underage sex beware, as the movie doesn't spare modern sensibilities with the fact that the concept of a girl being too young for sex (if she was deemed sexually attractive) wasn't even an issue for most men in the early 20th century! That said, there are thankfully no explicit scenes - you just know what is happening and painfully squirm in your chair while it does! One qualm I did have with the movie was some of the slightly sloppy costuming: some of the clothes worn here seemed a little earlier than 1917, more like a decade earlier. Furthermore, the way everyone reacted to the pictures Bellocq, the young photographer took of the prostitutes seemed very anachronistic, and made me lose respect for the movie (Bellocq is a figure that actually existed, though the specific story built around him in the movie is fictional). Photography was by 1917 no longer considered a sort of "magic", viewed with incredulous wonder (as the characters in the movie react to it). This would have been more historically exact for a story set in, say, 1850 or thereabouts! I found that aspect to be a ridiculous - its makers really should have known better.
  • netarch4 January 2001
    Very disturbing reality break. Child prostitution was prevalent in North America well into the early 20th century. This gives a good insight into demise of many children during this period. We were totally devoid of child protection agencies. Although many narrow minded artistically challenged people will label this movie as child pornography it is not. There is no suggestion of condoning or promoting of such. Louis Malle used a combination of shock and graphically disturbing scenes to get his message across. To have censored this movie would have been a throw back to the dark ages for artistic freedom. Although the acting leaves something to be desired it is a must watch for those wanting to see a dramatization of the hopelessness of the lives of children in the early Southern States.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Pretty Baby, by Louis Malle raises a myriad of questions when viewed almost thirty years after its creation. "Niggling" questions about the appropriateness of the film itself, the topic of child prostitution, the use of young actresses and actors, the film's moral detachment, whether is should have been made or could be made again all flitted through my mind as I soaked in the beauty of the images. I was also captivated by the sub themes of race, class, and gender inequity were so subtly and effectively presented. Sven Nykvist's cinematography make it, for me, one of the most beautiful to look at films ever made. I love to see beautifully filmed movies and Pretty Baby is certainly that. Malle filmed it in hot and humid Louisiana and Mississippi but his focus on the visuals and his detachment from the characters and their situations give it a coolness and richness which were able to quiet questions in my mind. I don't think there are or have been many directors capable of making this film and seeing it released. I, for one am grateful Louis Malle was able to do so.

    I've read comments that Pretty Baby glamorizes child prostitution. That isn't what I experienced while watching it. As beautiful as Pretty Baby is to look at, seeing the twitching faces of the men during the auction of Violet and then their nonchalance and camaraderie in partaking in it made me shudder. What kind of people are these? But I don't mean to ask that question in a judgmental was but with true curiosity. In the end Malle give us a kind of happy ending. Hattie has rejected the prostitution of the whorehouse for the prostitution of marriage and has come and rescued Violet from New Orleans and Storyville. The closing shot gives us a long look at Violet's reaction to the prospect her altered and unknown future. A lot can be projected onto Brooke Shield's face.

    I remember seeing Pretty Baby back in '78 but I do not recall being particularly shocked. Seeing it now I could feel the nags and the amazement when experiencing Malle's audacity. Those were interesting times and my, how they've/we've changed.!
  • caspian197820 September 2002
    If you look close, you will notice that the direction is pulling you into the story. Louis Malle holds onto the image in front of us until we have taken it all in. When we think there will be a cut soon in the film, we are robbed of this pity. Instead, we are given reality. At first, I thought the movie as going to end at the edge of the river bank during the picnic. It would have been a delightful shock for the movie to end in such a pure and innocent way. However, we are not given this. In fact, Louis Malle once again cheats(tricks)us into this. The next shot in the film shows the newly married couple having breakfast. If you watch closely, again, you will notice the scene comes ever so quick without a dissolve in neither the picture nor the music. A film that will stand the test of time. Reasons.....yes, sadly, the nudity will keep this video rented on a monthly bases. Then again, the movie does capture the bleak poetry of the era and tells a story like no other. One of Brooke's first and best roles.
  • Having heard stories from my Grandfather of the late 1890's thru early 1900's about the brothels here is Salt Lake,the movie give's a accurate look into the world of the "Higher Class" brothels. Girl's as young as 10 some,as in the movie daughters of the prostitutes,or girls who for what ever reason had left their homes. Yes; in this day of greater awareness of child abuse it's shocking to learn that through out history little or no thought was given to the age of children when it came to sex,all of us,if we go back in our family genealogy will find a very young great ###### great female who is responsible for us being here. And to you Christians,don't forget that Mary was 13 or 14 when Christ was born,she also was betrothed to Joseph at age 12, which was the custom then.
  • After years of hearing about this movie, I finally saw it yesterday. To say that i didn't feel uncomfortable and disturbed by certain scenes in this movie would be an outright lie. The tale of a 12 year old girl named Violet (played by a stunning preteen Brooke Shields) growing up in a New Orleans brothel in the 1920's with little to no parental supervision, and surrounded by adult female prostitutes as her "role models", is a truly interesting, well done movie that sure leaves a lasting impression on the viewer.

    Now, on one hand, the movie is honest in that it shows how children living in America were used and abused in the past (and still happens today). That is the honest part of the movie. What is so terrible about this movie is that the character of Violet doesn't much mind that she is being constantly pimped out by the Madame of the brothel, Nell. In one shocking scene, we see Violet being asked to sit in the lap of an adult man in front of her mother, who is also in the room. He then proceeds to practically feel her up all the while Madame Nell watches. For the first time in the movie we see Madame Nell view Violet as a commidity despite her extremely young age. The following scene shows Nell putting Violet into super skimpy dress, then painting her lips bright red, and finally giving her heels. The Madame then puts Violet in a smoke filled roomed with literally dozens of men leering ar her like a piece of meat. What girl of 12 is not going to not be scared to death of being in a room filled with a bunch of dirty old men, while dressed in just high heels and a transparent nightgown, with clearly no underwear on? Yet the movie shows Violet as being relaxed and cheerful about being auctioned off to a group of amoral pedophiles, and this is what is so ojectionable about the film. This is what makes the film damaging to the culture in a way no movie has ever done before. In other words, it legitimizes the sexual exploitation of a child. Not explicitly but covertly. In a romantic gloss of pretty visuals. Yes, the movie is well done and gorgeous to look at. But it hides something very disturbing (not to mention just plain false) at the heart of it: sexually violate a pre teen girl and maybe, just maybe, it might not be such a serious crime afterall.

    Even scarier is the potential for this movie to influence a young girls' outlook on sex in a way that opens up for her to be sexually exploited. Think about it, a pre teen girl is watching this movie about a beautiful and glamorous 12 year old girl who is a prostitute, and many if not most of the male clients at said brothel find her extremely desirable. There is a suggestion made to a pre teen girl that if they really wanted to make some money, there are men who would pay her lots of money if they got together in a private place, and then take off her clothes. After watching this movie and seeing how almost all the adult males featured here can't stop being utterly fascinated by Violet, would the experience THEN be viewed by the young girl being exploited in REAL life as something horrible, or a good way to make a lot of money in a short period of time? It's something to seriously think about.
  • I, too, was disturbed by the nudity, but I was even more disturbed by the story. This little girl is made into a prostitute with the blessing of her own mother, her virginity is auctioned off, and the movie treats the whole thing matter-of-factly instead of as the tragedy that it is. I'm not even sure why I'm recommending this movie.

    Actually, now that I think about it, I think I like the fact that the film allows me to be disturbed on my own rather than hitting me over the head and telling me how I should feel (as Hollywood always does). No weepy music, no over-the-top emotional scenes, just a story. Take from it what you like.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Talk about Romantic Nudes: I felt as though I was at the Museum of Fine Arts, watching some French Renaissance paintings. As Keith Carradine goes around taking photos (and incidentally showing us the painful care that was involved in the process), we are allowed to view some beautiful women, enchantingly posed (and I'm a heterosexual OLD woman). I must confess I felt revulsion for the 'education' Brooke Shields was getting in the ways of prostitution, and find it fascinating/sad that no one threw in anything about HOW these people came to be there.

    Of course, as a political activist, I want those politicians not just to close down Storyville, but to educate and give jobs to the women they've just thrown out on the streets. I'm not quite to the point where I can see a reason to WANT to be a prostitute, but this almost shows them as a big happy family, eating high on the hog. YOu can almost see some naive girl saying, "Where do I sign up?"

    Wish they could waxed Brooke Shield's moustache off in the last scene, but that's only because I don't like her acting. She did a great job in this movie, however. The black piano player watching the bidding for her virginity was a great directorial idea by Malle. As a Southerner, I knew I was watching a part of slavery enacted on a white girl, as seen through the eyes of a black man whose people just emerged from slavery. But doubt if many will 'catch the point'.

    Somewhat superficial: for example, you never understand why suddenly Sarandon comes back to 'reclaim' her daughter, or why the daughter goes with her now that she's married to Carradine. These movies can't withstand too close a demand for logic or explanation.

    Certainly, there are few movies like this made today and you can see how Malle built his reputation as a great director, by taking the best from Sarandon and Shields, as well as the bit players.
  • peteloaf-5563124 March 2019
    This movie is a piece of absolute degeneracy from Hollywood, the world capital of pedophilia and degeneracy. They are displaying their sickness right out in the open for all the world to see, while equally degenerate critics applaud the film for its "honesty" and "courage" in tackling such a controversial topic. This is kiddie porn and Hollywood should burn to the ground Is it any wonder that Brooke Shields (along with so many countless other child stars) went on to have such troubled lives??
  • moonspinner5522 January 2001
    At the beginning of Louis Malle's "Pretty Baby", there's a tight shot on Brooke Shields' baby face: she's watching something with interest and we hear a woman moaning just in front of her. Since we all know what the film is about, one is to assume the child is watching some sexual act with curiosity. Actually, it's just the opposite. This is writer-director Malle's clever way of laughing at the viewer, saying "You have the dirty mind, not I." It's a very smart way to begin the picture, but little else occupied my mind after it got going. Why does Keith Carradine's impatient, somewhat-indifferent photographer take such an interest in this maddeningly dull child? He apparently has a fetish for little girls, but nothing sexual seems to occur between them (except for some nude photography). Carradine--who has one sullen expression to express every emotion--and the inexperienced Shields are a monotonous pair; these characters (along with Brooke's mother, an unblushing Red Light district prostitute played by Susan Sarandon) provide no passion, no emotion. The film is just a stylish painting, posed and rather embalmed. *1/2 from ****
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