Thursday, January 29, 2009

Pretty Baby (1978)

Before Brooke Shields took an elongated tour down mediocre lane, she appeared in at least one good flick: Louis Malle's Pretty Baby (1978). The film, which was released under a mass amount of controversy, centers around Violet (Brooke Shields) and her life in a 1917 New Orleans brothel. As this was 1917, there is little puritanical virtue embedded into the lives of the prostitutes or young Violet. All of the women, including Violet's mother, Hattie (Susan Sarandon), enjoy their work and relish the company of the other prostitutes. Violet is entranced by her surroundings and leaps for joy when her virginity is auctioned off to the highest bidder. But it's not all peaches and cream. There's an odd, disquieting sensation felt throughout the entirety of Pretty Baby that leaves an aching, lingering feeling in your gut after the film ends. Could it be happiness? Few films deal with sexual encounters as openly and maturely as Malle does with Pretty Baby and his treatment of Shields' and the world's oldest profession never feels gratuitous or cheap. It's certainly one of my favorite films. One can only hope that Criterion saves it from Paramount hell in the near future.


Alexa said...

I think this film got a lot of unfair negative attention because it's subject and the use of young Brooke. But it really is as you describe.

Good to see you again!

Bill Treadway said...

I recorded it on DVD off TCM Sunday night and just watched it earlier today. A small gem of a movie.

Brooke Shields made one other good movie: Wanda Nevada (1979)starring (and directed by)Peter Fonda. It's a small, quiet Western dramedy that was pretty much thrown away by United Artists, who had little faith it could find an audience. Fonda was a good director- he made only three films, but they're all interesting, offbeat fare that holds up.

Donald Brown said...

Great film! My favorite of that year (I turned 19 the year it came out). Great work from everyone, but a word has to be said for the late, great Sven Nykvist. I watch it just for the cinematography. It's a shame Criterion doesn't have it.

Jena said...

I love this movie. I thought it dealt with sex and prostitution in a very realistic way. Most movies that deal with this kind of thing get way to into making the subject overly graphic. I'm glad someone is doing a review on this film because I don't think it gets the attention it deserves because of its touchy subject matter.