Painted Angels

***

Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

What if the Wild West was the Desperate West? Or the Desperately Dull West? English writer/director, Jon Sanders, tackles this conundrum by concentrating on the cat house and telling his story of frontier life from the perspective of ladies-who-do. His wife, the actress, Anna Mottram, co-wrote the script.

The exquisite look of this three-house town and the flat, featureless land stretching beyond the graveyard to nowhere emphasises isolation and emptiness. The girls have each other and the men they service, not that that's anything to write home about - presuming they have a home and can write. The work is unrewarding, unpleasant and unhygenic. Also, at weekends, it's non-stop. Half way through the evening, when presented with an unwashed bear of a man, Georgie (Lisa Jakub), the youngest, cries, "No! He's disgusting!", only to be slapped down at once by Mrs Ryan (Brenda Fricker), the madam.

The film turns Western stereotypes around and shows pre-railroad rural existence, as bearded, brutal and backward. The women suffer emotional deprivation and are the ones who watch out for the children and anyone in need. The performances of Kelly McGillis, Bronagh Gallagher, Meret Becker, Mottram, Fricker and Jakub are faultless. The pace is slow, as you would expect, and the prospects for the prostitutes sad beyond belief. After a while, you long for Clint Eastwood to stride into the saloon. A touch of unreality might take the pain away. In one respect, Sanders succeeds too well. By showing the West as it might have been, you wonder how America advanced to the point of having a Dream.

Reviewed on: 19 Jan 2001
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The brutal life of prostitutes in a wild west cathouse.
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Director: Jon Sanders

Writer: Jon Sanders

Starring: Anna Mottram, Kelly McGillis, Bronagh Gallagher, Meret Becker, Brenda Fricker and Lisa Jakub

Year: 1999

Runtime: 90 minutes

BBFC: PG - Parental Guidance

Country: US

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