Directed by Louis Malle
Screenplay: Polly Platt
Starring Brooke Shields
Music by Ferdinand Morton
Cinematography Sven Nykvist
The film is set in 1917. Hattie, a prostitute working at an elegant brothel run by the elderly, cocaine-sniffing Madame Nell, has a 12-year-old daughter, Violet, who also lives at the house. When photographer Ernest . Bellocq comes by with his camera, Hattie and Violet are the only ones awake. He asks to be allowed to take photographs of the women. Madame Nell only agrees after he offers to pay.
Bellocq becomes a fixture in the brothel, taking many photographs of the prostitutes, mostly of Hattie. His activities fascinate Violet, though she is frustrated by the long, precise process Bellocq must go through to pose and take his pictures.
Nell decides that Violet is old enough for her virginity to be auctioned off. After a bidding war between regulars, Violet is bought by an apparently quiet customer, but this first sexual experience is unpleasant. Hattie, meanwhile, aspires to escape prostitution. She marries one of her customers and goes to St. Louis without her daughter, whom her husband believes to be her sister. Hattie promises to return for Violet once she’s settled and broken the news to her new spouse.
Violet runs away from the brothel in a fit of temper after being punished for some hijinks, showing up on Bellocq’s doorstep. The two become lovers, although Violet still needs a great deal of attention and is frustrated by Bellocq’s devotion to his work. For his part, the (perhaps asexual) older man is entranced by Violet’s beauty, youth, and photogenic face.
Violet eventually returns to Nell’s after quarrelling with Bellocq, but social reform groups are forcing the brothels of Storyville to close. Bellocq arrives to wed Violet, ostensibly to protect her from the larger world.
Immediately following the wedding, Hattie and her husband arrive from St. Louis. They claim that Violet’s marriage is illegal without their consent and plan to take her back with them. Violet would like her husband to come with her, but he lets her go, realizing a more conventional life, and schooling, will benefit her more.
The film won the Technical Grand Prize at the 1978 Cannes Film Festival.
Versatile controversial French and Hollywood film maker. He made films for more than 40 years, winning innumerable awards starting with Le Monde du silence (1956) at Cannes and Oscar to ‘Goodbye Children at Venice in 1987. His last feature film was Vanya on 42nd Street (1994) . Malle is sometimes associated with the nouvelle vague - though his work does not directly fit in or correspond to the auteurist theories that apply to the work of Godard, Truffaut, Chabrol, Rohmer, and others, and he had nothing whatsoever to do with Cahiers du cinéma, he did exemplify many of the characteristics of the movement, including using natural light, and shooting on location. He reveled in tackling taboo subjects: The Fire Within ("Le Feu follet", 1963) centres on a man about to commit suicide, Murmur of the Heart (1971) deals with an incestuous relationship between mother and son and Lacombe Lucien (1974), co-written with Patrick Modiano, is about collaboration with the Nazis in Vichy France in World War II .
In 1968 Malle visited India and made a seven part documentary series L’Inde fantôme: Reflexions sur un voyage and a documentary film Calcutta, which was released in cinemas. Concentrating on real India, its rituals and festivities, Malle fell afoul of the Indian government, which disliked his portrayal of the country, in its fascination with the pre-modern, and consequently banned the BBC from filming in India for several years. Malle later claimed his documentary on India was his favorite film