1 February 2011 | lor_
Gritty, well-directed look at prostitution
Aurelio Grimaldi holds an odd niche in Italian cinema: is he a pornographer or a director of art films? THE WHORES only magnifies this debate - it's a very well-directed movie that lost out in the 1994 Golden Palm competition at Cannes to of all things, PULP FICTION, but is definitely porn content.
I had previously enjoyed, to varying extents, three of Grimaldi's more obviously catering-to-porn-fans movies: THE SHE-WOLF, THE BUTCHER and EUGENIE. THE WHORES is an earlier work which very much reminded me of the better known SHE-WOLF.
The difference here is a serious tone, black & white photography, and an unvarnished, unglamorized depiction of "the life". Central to the power of the piece is casting of Ida Di Benedetto in the lead role, a MILF-age prostie catering to minority clientèle, with rather touching and unlikely romantic involvements ensuing. I was struck with her talent way back in 1981 at MoMA starring in the lesbian drama IMMACOLATA AND CONCETA, which, alas, has never been released in America.
Also outstanding is Marco Leonardi, fresh from his international success as the young male lead in LIKE WATER FOR CHOCOLATE. He plays a male prostitute in a strong subplot which is intentionally (I believe) directed in the manner of Pasolini. Grimaldi later made a film about the murder of Pasolini, and this segment, with its patented Pasolini crotch shots (clothed that is) of Leonardi and violent conclusion, mirrors PPP's demise.
Though highly dramatized there's an overall documentary quality to THE WHORES, including interruption of the action to allow prostitutes or Johns to suddenly rant directly at the camera in impromptu monologues. Near the end is a most unusual sequence: an in-your-face montage in tight closeups of uncircumcised penises - I thought I'd suddenly wandered into some '60s Yoko Ono experimental film. Even to my jaded eyes it had the desired shock effect.