I have said it before and I’ll say it again, television is doing so marvelously! There are some solid programs now that keep DVR’s around the globe running at full speed so viewers are able to catch everything there is offered.
International television programs as well have made their impact for viewers and since discovering the likes of their series I am hooked as well. Now, Music Box Films has brought me another reason to adore it all.
On Bluray this month is a series that has me crying out “give me Season Two already!” with the provocative and stunning MAISON CLOSE.
It all begins as a young Rose (Jemima West) comes to the brothel in Paris known as Paradis. Looking for her mother she is soon tricked into owing a debt to the house mistress Hortense Caillac (Valerie Karsenti). Now her innocence is on the bidding block!
Vera (Anne Charrier) is the number one woman at the Paradis who wants so badly to be away from it all. Waiting for Baron De Plessis to buy her freedom, she is moments away from being a mistress of leisure. Short lived, Vera has no other choice than to once again take her place at the Paradis.
Hortense isn’t happy about Vera’s leaving, but has bigger fish to fry as the local thug Gaston Lupin (Dan Herzberg) is putting pressure on the Paradis. Keeping the brothel open has put her in a debt that forces her to make choices.
Keeping a close eye on everything is second in charge Marguerite (Catherine Hosmalin), a very matronly woman who has dreams of her own about Paradis. Using her skills to recruit new girls, Rose was a target of that recruiting. She knows almost everything about what goes on inside the doors of the brothel – almost everything.
As the house begins to spill its secrets, it is all of the women including Angele (Blandine Bellavoir), Bertha (Deborah Grall), Olympe (Elsa Catarina), Pauline (Fatou N.Diaye) and more who will pay the price.
Much to the dismay of Hortense brother Paul (Nicholas Briancon) comes to claim his spot at the Paradis. The relationship between the siblings is tense at best as their own history seems doomed to repeat itself.
Never underestimate the power of women up against the wall!
FINAL WORD: I have to start with Anne Charrier as Vera because her character begins on such a high note. Wanting to live a life away from Paradis, her reasons come out slowly and so does her personality. She honestly cares for the women in the house and the relationship with Hortense gives the word ‘complicated’ new meaning. For ever two steps Vera gets ahead, it takes one quick reaction to drag her back to the place she is trying to get away from. Watching Charrier portray Vera from a woman who had hope to a woman who sees the reality of their group situation to the season one finale is not only stellar but I watched it twice. Charrier is amazing!
Karsenti as Hortense is a mixed bag of emotions and touches of evil. From one situation to the next she is ruled by her emotions for Vera, fear of the past and what she had hoped was her future. Karsenti gives us the soulful face of a woman trying not to wear heart on her sleeve while counting the money made at other women’s expense. Vera said, “There’s no accounting what unhappiness can make you do” – let those words ring while watching Karsenti magically transform Hortense and web she weaves!
West as Rose begins as a girl of innocence who only wants to find her mother. When her plans are turned upside down, West changes right before our eyes. Set up by Edgar with the full approval of Margaruite, Hortense uses this young woman for financial gain with not a thought of regret. Rose is a girl raised in a convent who becomes a woman in a brothel. But, there is more to this young girl’s story that brings the roof down over the Paradis.
Hosmalin as Marguerite is the older mirror image of Hortense. Keeping the Paradis running is exactly what she is good at but she wants more. That isn’t to say she doesn’t, from time to time, show some humanity toward the girls. Marguerite wants a piece of the Paradis for herself which shocks me when going up against Hortense. Hosmalin is amazing in this role and I feel like there is so much more to know about her!
Briancon as Paul gives the viewer a pretty good idea of the beliefs of men in that era. Married to one woman, in love with another while having fun with others (are you keeping count); he is the roller coaster of Paradis. Usually at odds with his sister Hortense, keep an eye on Briancon because his performance as Paul is nothing short of a shocker and excellently done!
Herzberg as Lupin is ridiculously creepy – which is the point. Although he comes in and out, there are deals made and deals crossed that have his handprint on it.
TUBS OF POPCORN: I give MAISON CLOSE five tubs of popcorn out of five. The costuming is brilliant, the set design detailed, the storyline is amazing and the series doesn’t seem afraid of anything! The cast is perfection as each and every one brings secrets and stories that slowly emerge holding on to that viewer anticipation as long as possible.
There are characters here you love to hate and hate to love which brings a complexity to a situation ripe with things that can go horribly wrong. Set in a brothel every moment brings opportunity for these women to either be swallowed up by their surroundings or take charge – and stand back when they take charge!
The costuming is so rich in a mixture of the darkness of the brothel itself and the reds as if cloaking themselves entirely in a scarlet dress/corset instead of little ole A. Every outfit, both inside the brothel and out, is beautifully done. From lace to netting, beading to bustles I can not even imagine wearing the layers so thank you cast ladies for adding more authenticity to the series.
MAISON CLOSE also delves into the issues of the plague in Paris, how prostitution was regulated and what was done about venereal diseases, how debts are handled and calculated as well as the power of the house from the mistress on down.
The roles are clearly defined as director Mabrouk El Mechri says of MAISON CLOSE, “It is a Polaroid of the life of three prostitutes in a Parisian brothel in 1871, just after the Commune. Their destinies are, in the end, very real. There was an instrumentation of sexual relations and the female condition that was not far removed from what women can experience now in the French suburbs. So what this series does is question the resonance between the societies of the 19th century and our society today.”
MAISON CLOSE is also the latest celebrated TV import to be acquired by Music Box Films. Over the past several years, the Chicago-based distributor has been building an enviable catalog containing some of the best foreign TV programming available. Among their compelling audience favorites are Germany’s GENERATION WAR, France’s THE RETURNED and Sweden’s MILLENNIUM. Each of these series has won well deserved awards!
Run, don’t walk to get the first season of this stunningly beautiful series that offers drama, costuming, storyline, a lot of daring and each episode more amazing than the last. If you want risqué, an intense story, shocking twists and turns then MAISON CLOSE needs to definitely be on your must-see list!
The Bluray includes all episodes from Season One along with a Collector’s Booklet that include production notes, photos and interviews from the director. In French, which personally for me makes it even more amazing, there is over 440 minutes to watch so get a group of friends together, get comfy with snacks and prepare to watch every episode!
In the end – these are ladies like no other!