In the third installment of his globalization trilogy (the capper to 1998’s Megacities and 2005’s Workingman’s Death), Austrian director Michael Glawogger offers an engrossing triptych of prostitution in three cities that harbor a thriving flesh trade. In Bangkok, Thailand, Glawogger speaks to a group of women who work out of an astonishingly mechanized brothel called The Fishtank, where sex workers—identified by number—sit behind a glass wall while leering customers scrutinize them and make their selections. In Faridpur, Bangladesh, there’s a thin line between whoring and slaving: Extremely young girls, often trained by their mothers, work long days in a dark hornet’s nest of a brothel surrounded by children and miserly johns, left with few options other than to service a baker’s dozen of clients a day—or risk getting the boot from their bean-counting madams. La Zona in Reynosa, Mexico, is a kind of drive-in whorehouse, where macho men in pick-up trucks troll a dusty string of apartments in search of cheap tricks. There, we meet the scariest john of them all, a profane, fat-faced devil who talks about his dick like it’s a weapon of mass destruction, and we witness a real transaction between a sex worker and her cash-poor customer (200 pesos, or $15, nets him no happy ending). In each city, the sex workers hope and pray for a brighter future, but by the end of this two-hour miserere, the answers to their prayers seem awfully distant.
The film opens July 6 at E Street Cinema, 555 11th St. NW. See our Showtimes for listings.