CANAL STREET MADAM
(Cameron Yates, U. S.). 91 minutes. Rating: This nuanced film about ex-madam Jeanette Maier, who ran a New Orleans brothel before it was busted by the FBI, is a complex study of the high price of sex work.
Maier describes her low life as an abused child, her high life as a madam, how she ran the brothel with her mother and pimped out her own daughter. Meanwhile, her sons, deprived of proper mothering, headed straight down the path to criminality.
What could have been a not very sympathetic portrait deepens into an analysis of the hypocrisies behind prostitution. The johns go free, the workers go to jail. Once busted, Maier can’t get a legitimate job because she has a record.
A devastating sequence shows her attempt to go the public speaking route, only to be shouted down by “fans” screaming, “Show your tits.”
Kudos especially for the genius strategy of incorporating the wiretaps and films taken by the FBI.