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House of Pleasures (2011)



Average Rating: 7.5/10
Critic Reviews: 13
Fresh: 12 | Rotten: 1

No consensus yet.



liked it
Average Rating: 3.4/5
User Ratings: 2,177

My Rating

Movie Info

In this lush, atmospheric look at the final days of an elegant, turn-of-the-century brothel, we go inside the cloistered walls of L'Apollonide to meet the Madam (Noemie Lvovsky), her elite clientele, and some dozen "girls" - veterans and newcomers, romantics and cynics, schemers and innocents. Upending the period drama with split screens, time shifts and a modern soundtrack, this is a provocative and beautiful film about the world's oldest profession - and an exploration of how the past is



Bertrand Bonello

Mar 13, 2012


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All Critics (27) | Top Critics (13) | Fresh (22) | Rotten (5) | DVD (1)

Nothing in this film comes as a surprise, but Bonello's intent to show the place backstage as well as onstage is fulfilled and pertinent, even though the period setting gives the picture a curio air.

June 19, 2013 Full Review Source: The New Republic
The New Republic
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It's about forcing us to think about people we never would otherwise and seeing their struggles and humanity.

March 29, 2012 Full Review Source: San Francisco Chronicle
San Francisco Chronicle
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What gives the film its haunting pull, as well as its feminist undercurrent, is the filmmaker's palpable compassion for these women.

March 7, 2012 Full Review Source: The Atlantic
The Atlantic
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No one, male or female, has any fun, but the men behave as if they do. They are all half-stupefied by the languor in which they drown.

February 9, 2012 Full Review Source: Chicago Sun-Times | Comments (4)
Chicago Sun-Times
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It emphasizes setting over character and plot; and it casts a mood that's both eerie and entrancing.

February 9, 2012 Full Review Source: Chicago Reader
Chicago Reader
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Seductive on the surface, steely underneath, this is an angry, fascinating, highly political film all wrapped up in costumed frilliness.

January 24, 2012 Full Review Source: Time Out
Time Out
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Bonello is more interested in the women's relationships with each other than with their rich clients, though we do get to see them living out some of their patrons' kinky desires.

May 30, 2012 Full Review Source: Movie Talk
Movie Talk

There's plenty of flesh on display but the stories are far from erotic.

March 6, 2012 Full Review Source: Scotsman

Bertrand Bonello's visually alluring glimpse of what prostitute's do during down time. Captivating at times, but it does go on.

February 17, 2012 Full Review Source: Cleveland Plain Dealer
Cleveland Plain Dealer

The film is superbly designed to suggest the oppressive, hypocritical haut-bourgeois decor, the obsessive eroticism that excludes real desire, and the languorous timelessness that makes one day like another.

January 29, 2012 Full Review Source: Observer [UK]
Observer [UK]

We watch with various degrees of either fascination or boredom as the girls go about their work wondering how long it or they will last.

January 27, 2012 Full Review Source: This is London
This is London

Here to prove that misogyny never quite goes out of style in the cinema, French director Bertrand Bonello presents this wearisome, questionable spectacle.

January 26, 2012 Full Review Source: Guardian | Comment (1)

Dazzling and deep. You'll want to go back for more.

January 26, 2012 Full Review Source: Little White Lies | Comment (1)
Little White Lies

Bertrand Bonello's atmospheric, poetic film seduces you with all the skill and subtlety of the courtesans it depicts.

January 25, 2012 Full Review Source: Film4

Erotically charged but overlong and untroubled by too much plotting.

January 23, 2012 Full Review Source: Empire Magazine
Empire Magazine

... the movie drips with silk and velvet; you can very nearly smell the leather and perfume... But there's another story in the hollow eyes of the assembled courtesans, the palpable air of hopelessness that pervades this pretty, airless film.

January 18, 2012 Full Review Source: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

We're immersed in the routines and rituals of the female prostitutes, in a world smelling of "sperm and champagne".

January 16, 2012 Full Review Source: Total Film
Total Film

Strictly for art-house fans impervious to things bizarre, offensive and indulgent.

December 1, 2011 Full Review Source: Film Journal International
Film Journal International

Audience Reviews for House of Pleasures

Dreamy drama following the travails of a group of prostitutes in a belle epoque bordello. It's slow, extremely sad (the main character is permanently disfigured by one of her clients) and features some unsuccessful stylistic gambles (a montage set to "Nights in White Satin"), but it's also a beautiful-looking, elegant and moving film with believably scarred characters.
November 30, 2012
Greg S

Super Reviewer

A sad drama about a group of prostitutes in a Parisian brothel at the end of the 19th century. The narrative is always fluid, while the beautiful production design and cinematography explore quite efficiently the gloom and the romantic view of being a woman submissive to men and their pleasure.
April 26, 2012

Super Reviewer

When making a movie that argues against prostitution, it is best not to make it sound like every other dreary profession which was the central problem with Lizzie Borden's "Working Girls." Also set in an upscale brothel, "House of Pleasure," which successfully turns glossy sexiness on itself, takes a more imaginative path, especially in the way it plays with time with a neat use of anachronistic music(but then "Nights of White Satin" does not really sound like a 60's song, either), repetitive dialogue and images to give the feel that time is not flowing as it should inside where it is 1899-1900 Paris. When one of the women remarks that it has been forever since they had a free day, it may be literally true. So, that as hard as the women may work, they probably will never be able to settle their debts with the Madame(Noemie Lvovsky).

But that's not the worst of it, as the brothel is a place where you can only separate the sex from the medical exams by the correct invoice. So while the women have a certain freedom without their corsets, it does not apply to their movements as they forced into degrading positions like Lea(Adele Haenel) who acts like a doll. And that's not counting what happens to Madeleine(Alice Barnole) which leaves an opening that Pauline(Iliana Zabeth), who is not quite 16, applies for. And Julie's(Jasmine Trinca) nickname is Caca, so use your imagination. In fact, a lot of the women are known by nicknames which are degrading in and of themselves.
December 27, 2011
Walter M.

Super Reviewer

Disturbing in parts but nonetheless, this look into a turn of the century brothel has compelling gals who perform the same tasks but are from so many diverse and interesting backgrounds.
May 29, 2013
John Ballantine

Super Reviewer

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Foreign Titles

  • Haus der Sünde (DE)
  • House of Tolerance (UK)
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