Amazingly enough, given the logjam of indie releases each week in New York and other major markets, fewer movies of note slip through the nets of Nashville’s commercial theaters than they did during the heyday of Vanderbilt’s Sarratt Cinema 20 years ago. But Sarratt’s “International Lens” series is now the most reliable fail-safe for those that do miss commercial release — and they’re not only shown free but presented oftentimes with accompanying insights from Vanderbilt’s faculty.
The most acclaimed film of last year that didn’t show in local theaters was likely House of Pleasures, Bertrand Bonello’s study of an elegant Parisian brothel in the year 1900 whose luxuries mask another form of confinement. The movie was hailed for its languid, immersive atmosphere, its daring use of anachronistic music cues (including a Moody Blues classic and Lee Moses’ electrifying soul single “Bad Girl”), and a tone that acknowledges both nostalgia for the workers’ camaraderie (and relative good fortune) and the suffocating grind and continuing perils of transacted intimacy.
“As Bonello details its nightly routines, the brothel takes on the qualities of an organism, one that’s mostly bonded in feminine solidarity, but nonetheless subject to forces beyond its control,” The A.V. Club’s Scott Tobias wrote. “Without soft-pedaling it in the least, Bonello nonetheless mourns the passing of a time where prostitutes didn’t control their destinies, but at least had each other.”
In French with subtitles, the movie is sponsored by Nashville Premieres, the band of philanthropic cinephiles whose track record of bringing first-rate fare to Middle Tennessee predates the Aughts. It screens 7:30 p.m. tonight at Vanderbilt's Sarratt Cinema; click here for more information (including details about where to park).