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.