THREE STARS Legislation may have changed, but life isn't getting any easier at Australia's oldest brothel
The times, they are a changing and so it is for the inhabitants of Kalgoorlie’s infamous Pink House – Australia’s oldest brothel. Under the watchful eye of Madame Carmel and one of the establishment’s long term ladies, business has slowed to a crawl. In fact, there’s more cash earned from selling its notorious history to gleeful tourists (by day) than there is to selling sex (by night). Despite help from the blind eye of the law - the Pink House has operated illegally for most of the last century - changes in regulation, an influx of under-cutting Asian workers and the rise of the internet have all eaten away at Carmel’s bottom line, so to speak.
But that’s not the full story of this often fascinating, fly-on-the-wall documentary. The true grit rests in the relationship between Carmel and her colleague, BJ. Theirs is a tempestuous relationship that’s regularly tested by BJ’s equally tempestuous relationship with drugs (something that Carmel simply does not tolerate). It even led to the former’s unfortunate involvement in the tabloid murder of a local drug lord.
Yet despite frequently wandering to ‘the dark side’, BJ inevitably returns to the light, the only place she can call home, and Carmel invariably takes her back. It’s a warm co-dependency for women who have both long lost touch with the first bloom of youth and are each staring down a precarious future. In fact, it seems the only reason Carmel keeps the Pink House open is so her friend has somewhere to live. It’s rather touching.
The candid revelations from Carmel and BJ sits juxtaposed against another of the town’s famous exports, Mary-Anne Kenworthy. Together they paint an absorbing, compelling if distressing account of life on the front line of the world’s oldest profession.
Winner of Best Documentary at the Sydney Film Festival 2017
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