Maison Close Series 2
So I have written about Maison Close Series 1 here. Mason Close is an acquired taste.
It did take me a while to get into the drama. Just as happy feasting my eyes on all the intricate and aware period detail.
Maison Close, it has to be said, happens a lot in the drear, damn dark. One practically needs a mining helmet or night vision goggles to watch it.
I describe the main characters of Maison Close who all live in the brothel, Le Pardis, in my write ups on Season One.
In season one the drama centred around Hortense and her running of le Paradis & her struggles & contretemps with various villains & scoundrels and worse: the insanity & jealous possessiveness of Hortene’s own brother! Just about everybody is always trying to take over le Paradis. Hortense’s brother was one of them.
Yep, Hortense has vanquished, outplayed, black-mailed or just plain ordered up the murder of her enemies.
So, Hortense & Vera, the most beautiful & experienced lady of he night at le Paradise were close friends and question mark lovers. Definitely some shenanigans went on. Mainly it seemed from the viewer’s point of view that Vera was always playing Hortense.
Vera, clever, bright and intelligent & was always on the make. Purely from boredom sometimes. Most of the time with her supporting her own daughter who thinks Vera is her Aunt.
In a recent episode of Series 2 we see Vera silently repeating :
“I’m a prostitute”
in her head whilst with her daughter. Yet Vera can never say it.
In this episode we are informed as to the concept of sexual slavery as some kind of social service for:
“street walkers” Hortense is in on it right from the start, no problem. Off to Buenos Aires with all of them, even the one with syphilis it seems.
Rose, who spends most every night when the Paradise is open swanning around in ther mad metallic gold dress of gossamer thin gauze with nothing more than metallic bands encircling her skirt to hide Rose’s modesty.
Rose, in her mad metallic gold sheer dress with shiny metallic trim had a bell-like shape. They gave her that for her dress the first night she came to le Paradise. Trapped, sold (for the price of a meal) and frightened. Rose has worn it ever since.
Those Spanish Lady toilet roll covers of old, with all their lace or knitted petticoats, had the same rounded shape. They just never got near any do it yourself haute-couture. Rose looks completely fabulous of course, her dress matches her hair.
Rose, shall we say, is the proactive one of the bunch.
Nb. Check out the completely enormous and boned velvet bonnets worn by Vera when she goes out. The bonnets are self-closing and reach so far forward the woman wearer looks a a giant walking velvet covered small beehive head. it looks, to a 21st Century eye, all very odd. I wonder if this is Vera’s disguise.
We find out that ladies of the night are not allowed out alone near certain places. & at certain times ?
Though Hortense goes out regularly, she mostly favours surprising John Lennon sunglasses. Leading me to wonder whether they had sunglasses then? Hortense had a variety of Bee-keeper like netting arrangements around her head, coming down from a black velvet hat. The netting would be dark. A little like a widow’s veil but all around her head. Maybe this was Hortense’s disguise when out.
There are a couple of downer for me in Maison Close. The regrettably modern music played on the shagging/just plain general bacchanalia scenes. Mainly partying, in slow motion like being a prostitute all night was really a great big bunch of laughs.
We see an extremely icky lecture from Hortense to the street girls about the wonders of fellatio:
“it’s inherent control, over a man!”
Yeah, right. Hello, you’re on your knees, seem like control to you?
All the time Hortense is giving this lecture we see the ginger haired and bearded henchman of the dashing band of cat-burglars just standing, listening mutely. Why doesn’t he just leave we wonder? Does he have to listen to The Joy of Sex & the supposed empowerment inherent in fellatio lecture? We are left to think he is quietly getting off on it.
(unless he is Hortense’s body-guard)
To me this prurient dalliance on the sexual side of things lets Maison Close down. The extended slow motion R ‘n B embellished Bacchanalian scenes are unworthy of a better series. For me, Maison Close would have been even better without this extraneous rose-tinted interludes.
Presumably they are there solely for titillation for those who have chosen to watch a series about a brothel in 1871 for some hot chick action.
Maison Close in choosing to portray the oldest profession as all a jolly nightly party is a little irresponsible or tiresome really. We have the rare occasion of a “street walker” , considered of lower status & skill level by the girls & Hortense, with syphilis. There is the occasional “pervert” ousted by the handsome moustachioed cat Burglar now in charge of The Paradise.
Nb. They seem to have forgotten that in Series 1 Hortense was a 100% lesbian and madly in love with Vera. Also fallen by the wayside is the fact that beautiful blond haired Vallentin, who has a spine like a ballet dancer and intricate plaited hairstyles for her long, Victorian hair, Well Vallentin was diagnosed as having some disease and told to stop work. Unless she is on fellatio duty only.
Rose is getting a social conscience courtesy of socialist lectures that the dishy young Doctor has taken her to. There was a decidedly horrific scene in which Rose persuades the young doctor to end an unwanted pregnancy. Well i say horrific i looked away.
So yeah, Maison Close is a grower, It grows on you like roses.
I would say for me the background music insanely played anachronistically usually consisting of ultra-cool French rap, R ‘n B music in perfect stereo. With speakers not yet invented. (Well) For me it’s just so wrong. So very wrong.
Not only that but some scenes, presumably labelled officially grotesque and or surreal became still frames, unchanging whilst we are forced to listen to yet more unaccountably modern rap & R ‘n B.
All that work, Maison Close makers, all that work. & then you have to go and play 21st Century music: why?
Those painfully, painstakingly recreated scenarios, rooms, furniture, staircases, odd patterned rug/carpet in Hortense’s old office. The outfits. The courtyard outside the brothel. One market street scene, with ragged women with stalls.
The insalubrious villains that Hortense, in her multiple plotting, Vera too, meet and do nefarious deals with. The women are perpetually having to fight for their own or other’s security.
The street walking women brought into the Paradise by Rose are asked to vote for a life on the streets or a free trip to Buenos Aires and it’s brothels. So they are told. By Antonelli (the procurer) who looked extremely shady to me.
Yet the street walker girls voted to go. Only Rose argued both to the girls and the dishy head of the cat burglar gang. Rose warns him that the girls will be:
” slave labour”
when they get to Buenos Aries.
So there we have it. Sexual slavery subject to historical relativism there perhaps. I suppose it may have been better than the streets. However nobody knew, or had been to know, what on earth really happened to the girls when they get to Buenos Aires.
Nb. Maybe the annoying, for me rose-tinted slo-mo scenes & unforgivably long stills, with the over-long music attached over loudly:
are all meant to be deeply, scathingly bitingingly, ironic & or dark.