Maison Close – Season 2
Created by Jacques Ouaniche.
Starring Jemima West, Anne Charrier, Valérie Karsenti, Michaël Cohen and Catherine Hosmalin.
The brothel, ‘Le Paradis’, now collectively managed by its prostitutes, enjoys a period of commercial success once again. However the Paris vice squad wants to put an end to that revived utopia and pushes for a return to public morality. Hortense, Rose and Véra must ally themselves with a young and flamboyant Parisian gangster who takes the opportunity to establish his quarters in the brothel.
Presenting a gripping, insightful and often luridly honest portrayal of the late 19th Century exploits of a high-class Parisian brothel, Maison Close gleefully alternates between the chic and the brutal in varying strong measures of authenticity.
Often telling believably grim tales of persecution, power struggles, and above all, male to female abuse, the series is anything but lightweight. The stories from the ‘Paradis’ ring true in many respects, and this credibility, merged with a production design which incorporates modern music alongside the performances and alternative choreography and stylistic displays, truly mark the series out as far more ambitious than the average TV corsety costume drama.
A psychological edge is a strong element in the success of the show. Given their surroundings it is no surprise that all of the protagonists at some stage suffer from the full range of disturbances, from depression to fully blown schizophrenia. These mental turmoils and the medical responses of the time are dealt with sympathetically and show a well developed level of research that can only be congratulated. To put it in the clearest of terms, this exquisitely designed bordello could often be the source of all kinds of pain, both physical, and in the longer run, mental.
Since the first series appeared on the Sky Arts channel in 2011, the Canal+ produced show has been variously acclaimed as a new approach to eroticism and a grown-up version of 50 Shades. Personally speaking, I find the series strong enough and altogether different enough from fad-ish mommy porn to appeal to many viewers and have a long run of series…
Robert W Monk is a freelance journalist and film writer.