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Maison Close: The Complete First Season
Maison Close (which translates to "Closed House") is a series that most probably never heard of. It's a steamy French series in the same vain of Fifty Shades of Grey but with much more substance. Despite the accolades the show received, the acclaim and the awards, the series was cancelled after only 16 episodes due to lackluster ratings. With the series being released stateside with the hopes of a broader audience, this box set contains the first 8 episodes of the series. Is the show worth a look?
Taking place in Paris circa 1871, briefly after the rise and fall of the Paris Commune (which was an uprising from the working class trying to claim power), Maison Close revolves around the life of a collection of prostitutes in a fancy brothel called "Paradise", a high end bordello known as the best around, only frequented by the upper class of society.
Not everything is sunshine and rainbows at Paradise, however. The house is actually somewhat of a prison for its inhabitants. The show for the most part puts its focus on the aging veteran of Paradise, Vera (played by Anne Cherrier), a 30something prostitute whose goal it is to retire from the bordello she feels trapped in, attempting to buy her way out to spend her days with her lover, Baron Du Plessis (played by Quentin Baillot), but to no avail thanks to the hard edged mistress, Hortense Caillic (played by Valerie Karsenti), who makes sure her girls always remain in debt. To ensure their loyalty, everything essential is provided by the house and costs the prostitutes an exorbitant amount ... food, clothes, medicine, etc.
The first two episodes in particular showcase the kind of snake pit Paradise actually is. A young woman named Rose (played by Jemima West) who's about to be married, hears rumors that her long lost mother may be a maid at Paradise. Rose is invited to a nice dinner by Hortense and soon finds herself indebted because of it, lawfully ensnared to the house as a prostitute. Rose's virginity is soon auctioned off to the highest bidder and she's helplessly forced against her will to work for the brothel. Vera and Rose will do everything in their power to try to put Paradise in their rearview, but it won't be easy as they'll have to deal with politics from the town, abuse from gentleman callers, and entrapment from their cruel mistress who isn't is in way over her head with the wrong clientele, and they've come to collect.
+ Solid character development for all three leads.
+ A well told story.
+ The cast is excellent in their roles.
+ The costume and set designs are gorgeous.
- Can be a bit too much of a soap opera at times.
- The series utilizes a modern soundtrack that makes it feel like a cheesy CW show at times.
- I feel like I should put a warning here for those who won't watch a show because it's in a foreign language, steer clear as Maison Close is entirely in French.
- A terribly slow paced series at times.
Video and Audio:
Music Box Films have presented has presented Maison Close: The Complete First Season in a gorgeous 1080p Blu-ray transfer in 1.78:1. The image detail is sharp, no grain or visible noise throughout. A fantastic presentation.
Maison Close: The Complete First Season is presented with a DTS-HD Master Audio tracks in both 5.1 and 2.0, both offered in the original French audio with optional English subtitles. The mix is very good throughout, the music adds to the atmosphere of the show, never really overtaking anything happening onscreen. The dialogue is crisp and there were no dropouts throughout the box set.
- 16 page booklet that gives us a peek at the production, an interview with the director of the series, episode synopsis', and the history within the show.
- Season Two sneak peek.
Maison Close: The Complete First Season is a solid eight hours of television. While I wouldn't say it's must see television, it's definitely worth a look. The story is quite good, the cast is exceptional, and there is quite a bit of character development. The only real hang up I had with the show is the fact that it treaded soap opera territory and that the shows pacing at times slowed to a snail's pace. Recommended