A look at the final days of a turn of the century brothel when much of the Parisian sex trade was confined to grand maisons, populated by elegant madams and vetted clientele and Xavier Beauvois. Within L'Apollonide's walls, Bonello tracks the lives of the Madam and close to a dozen girls among them: Madeline who is horribly disfigured by a client and becomes known as "the woman who laughs", Clotilde the veteran who longs to be a "respectable woman" and Pauline, the newcomer whose eyes are quickly opened to reality. Despite the fact that desire often mixes with danger and disease rears its ugly head, the film is filled with moments of intimacy and camaraderie amongst the girls. Using a bag of cinematic techniques which include split screen, time shifts and a modern soundtrack, Bonello has made a provocative and beautiful film on not only the world's oldest profession but also a commentary on history as remembered by art and literature.
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