My Review of Le Maison Close on Sky Arts 1 & Virgin Channel 281 Fridays @10pm first episode on 4th January 2013 (follows Hard @9pm) Both in French with English subtitles-see previous review of Hard

My Review of Le Maison Close

So i’m not sure of the exact meaning attached to closed house but this series is about three women
(so the TV information said) trapped in debt and servitude (and a lack of rights) in Paris in Victorian times.  I need to check when the Siege of Paris was because it was mentioned. It might be set even earlier.

The Drama
So there is a brothel in Paris where the women can’t leave but one day a week. This is where all the women in the Drama live.  Everything is pretty dark for once deservedly so since it was gaslights then i think.

Paris is pretty rough from what little we can see.  The brothel appears set in a cobbled road under a bridge, upon which Lord-like men and ladies dress in finery and stroll with parasols in the sunshine.  Whereas below, almost underground in the setting of the scene, we see a cobbled street where double horses pulling carriages speed along and pull up outside the brothel.  The horses, I have noticed so far, are always white.

But I am getting ahead of myself.  The first person we meet is Vera who is very beautiful with long dark hair and dressed in a bodice and bloomers.  Kind of pantaloons: baggy half trousers tied at the knee   She is bouncing up and down on a certain General.  We learn that from the name she calls him and his rather fetching hat with a strap.  Which looks like its made of red and gold and silver jewels but is probably not.

Vera works in a brothel as a lady of the night. she lives there with an unspecified number of other women.  One, Angele, is quite young with a shock of carrot hair in a curly Afro bob.

Vera is in a good mood and is quite cheerful with the General and even kisses him goodbye at the end.  That is because she believes that she is leaving. Her debt, we hear, has been paid by the Baron and she is free to leave and she is leaving with the Baron to live with him in a palace.

The brothel is run by Hortense, a steely faced brown haired lady a little older than the girls and our heroine.  The brothel owner is dressed severely in black usual Victorian floor length gown with her hair in a bun and hair centre-parted.   The brothel owner, we discover is really into our heroine in that she fancies her and may love her.  We don’t know.

There are some serious shenanigans, not naughty ones, but dark and deadly doings that result from Hortense the brothel owner’s reluctance to let her best earner (our heroine) leave.  The brothel owner also makes passes at her regularly.  Thankfully, nothing transpired or i really might have thought this is a historical bonkbuster.  But no.  It doesn’t seem particularly fixated on such things.

Without giving too much away of the labyrinthine dealings that go on things go rapidly from bad to worse for several of the characters.  I can say that i believe our heroine, the young red-haired girl and a mysterious young visitor to the brothel are going to be the three main characters described in the  information.

There is also a scarily stern faced tall and sturdy lady called Marguerite with a ruffled white collar and long black voluminous dress.  She runs the girls.

The lesson, well one of them from this episode seeming to be:don’t refuse your fiance’s offer of accompaniment in 19th Century Paris and then be persuaded by a handsome young painter gentleman to come into a brothel and accept a free meal.

There are some pretty horrific historical happenings in Le Maison Close.  One scene was certainly a shocker for me.  As i said, the siege of Paris was mentioned along with another historical reference which i will have to look up.

I am rather interested in watching an historical period so long ago be recreated.  Normally i find historical dramas wrong and unbelievable.  Quite often the actors and their attitudes seem wrong.  Sometimes its the words, the language.  Not that i really know.  It just seems like they transplant modern more’s and translate it backwards in time.  However everything and everyone in Le Maison Close spoke and seemed like they were of that time.

It is perhaps sad and shocking material that may i realise seem dreary in reflection looking back on an episode.  Do i want to watch more murder and degradation of women? in whatever historically accurate and therefore possibly absolved form?

Yes, there was a murder, a new one on me and somewhat icky.  Well, we’ll see.  I will give it a chance mainly ’cause its unusual and fairly fresh and the sets are insanely good.  The brothel has some gorgeous marble and wrought iron stairs.  Though i’m sure this would pall after a while for the girls.

The palace that our heroine is due to be living in is rather sumptuous too.  But for the rest of it, much like the girls, our view as a viewer is that like the girls, we don’t get out much.  And everywhere is pretty damn dark.  But they have great parties..

postcript:
i did wonder at the gentleman’s name of Edgar who was described as a painter:Degas?  Vogel was mentioned.
Small spoiler/clue: the mysterious young girl who unwisely enters the brothel is looking for her long lost mother…
pps.
I have since discovered from the second episode (which rather let me down after my claim of everyone & everything being of that time by playing suspiciously modern R ‘n B music in a suitable scene) that Maison Close is set in 1871.  This is the date on a letter that Hortense receives about a Court Hearing she is summonsed to.  Oh and the Policeman is called Inspector Angelus.

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