Whores' Glory at Cosford Cinema August 3-8

As with meat processing and politics, the day-to-day drama, tedium, and heartbreak of prostitution have little to do with our spoon-fed fantasies about the profession. Michael Glawogger's fearless documentary Whores' Glory demystifies trick turning with a bluntness and artistry that's sure to make even the most jaded of us choke on our next sitcom-hooker-joke chuckle. Glawogger is most interested in the ways whoredom supports and contradicts a culture, and to that end, he divides Whores' Glory into three distinct parts. The first sets the stage in a "fishbowl" brothel in Bangkok, where middle-class johns live out their glitzy porn fantasies in streamlined, near-antiseptic conditions. The shock here comes from how matter-of-fact it all is — the workaday routine of the girls puts the grind in "bump and grind." It's in the second segment, in a prostitution district in Bangladesh, that the ghastly sadness and lack of options inherent in the trade truly surface, as dozens of women and girls vie (sometimes violently) for a steady stream of primarily Muslim men and forestall impoverished, lonely old age as best they can. The final third, in the Mexican border town of Reynosa, brings the baroque: Drive-thru hooking is the norm, while between gigs — and we finally see what whores do for their money here — the women, many of whom were kidnapped into prostitution, bond over hard drugs and a black-magic strain of Catholicism. If Glawogger resists feeling anything besides clinical interest in his case studies, it hardly detracts from their humanity.

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