The IFI French Film Festival
Saturday, 18th November 2011

House of Tolerance
[L’Apollonide (Souvenirs de la maison close)]

Saturday was a busy day for the IFI French Film Festival with things kicking off in the early afternoon with a screening of Fabrice Gober’s impressive debut feature, Lights Out (Simon Werner a disparu… ).

The Silence of Joan screened for a second time and was again introduced by its director, Philippe Ramos.

The evening began in style with two films that screened as part of the festival’s Prix Jean Vigo 60th Anniversary programme. Damien Manivel’s short The Lady with a Dog (La dame au chien) and Rabah Ameur-Zaïmeche’s Smugglers’ Songs (Les chants de Mandrin) which traces the roots of the French Revolution through Louis Mandrin, a Robin Hood-type folk-hero in 18th-century France.

The day concluded with the screening of Bertrand Bonello’s uber stylized House of Tolerance [L’Apollonide (Souvenirs de la maison close)]. The ‘house’ in question is an elite Parisian brothel at the tail end of the 1890s. Visually impressive, the film relates the grim tales of the women who live and work there servicing their debauched punters by night and bonding with each other sharing their secrets and painful experiences by day – ultimately the only thing these women have is each other. The film plays with the opulent and lavish environment they work in being at odds with the grubby reality of what they do and its consequences. The brothel becomes more of a prison for the women as the film develops. There are some controversial scenes and the film labours to make a point of depicting sex in an extremely unsexy way focusing more on the bleakness of the existence of the lives of the women caught up in the sex industry.

Steven Galvin

Lights Out screens again on Monday, 21st November at 17.00


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