Antigoni Amanitou & co in “Bordello” [1985, Greece]

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Intrigued by the earlier film of Nikos Koundouros, I decided to check out one of his later films, and as expected, it sure was different..!

His 1985 drama, “Bordello” [aka “Bordelo”] is set during the last days of Ottoman Crete when the island was occupied and controlled by Great Britain, Russia, Italy, and France, ostensibly to monitor a peace treaty but with their own hidden agenda. The film starts with a group of women – “The Ladies from Marseille”, landing in the port town of Chania – enterprising prostitutes hoping to take advantage of the new demand caused by the influx of the various armies. Led by Rosa Bonaparte, they settle in a mansion to start business. The film follows the politics played out at the bordello by the customers’ vested interests, not least the Cretan revolutionaries who want independence from Ottoman Turkey. The women also get reluctantly sucked into the politics of a foreign land, one they wish they hadn’t come to.

The film is exquisitely made, even if it doesn’t reach the poetic heights of Mikres Aphrodites. The set design, lighting and shot selection is outlandish and evocative of Fellini’s “Satyricon”. The acting performances range from the eccentric to the utterly ridiculous, but it all somehow works in this bizarre film. The cinematography and editing is quite good, and the film held my attention throughout even if I hadn’t a clue what’s going on in the scenes where they speak either Greek or Russian (sadly my DVD came only with Greek subtitles). There are some silly directorial mistakes, but nothing major. The costumes and make-up is very well done, but I especially loved the fabulous eye-liners of these ladies – charming, sexy, and so Greek. Add to this the extraordinary nude scenes – women filmed from unusual angles, but artistic nevertheless. The film is a visual feast, and for that reason, Highly Recommended Viewing..!

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