Latest Crop of MIFF Titles Exploring the World’s Oldest Profession

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film poster; Marine Vacth and ‘client’ in Young & Beautiful
Joaquin Phoenix and Marion Cotillard in The Immigrant; film poster

Stemming from a long history of silent-era melodramas to the present day, prostitution pays…at the box office and beyond…as evident by the latest crop of complex characters, at times comedic, though more often rife with external struggle and internal turmoil. Five films at MIFF’s 31st edition this past March fit into this somewhat combustible theme, including: Young & Beautiful and The Immigrant, which make their Miami commercial debut on Friday, May 23rd, and Fading Gigolo, Eastern Boys and a special screening of Midnight Cowboy, for those who hadn’t seen it and for those who hadn’t forgotten it.

French filmmaker François Ozon’s Young & Beautiful (Jeune & jolie) finds 17-year-old Isabelle (Marine Vacth) taking up a secret life as a call girl, meeting her clients for hotel-room trysts after attempting to seek solace in the arms of a German boy. In this erotic tale of sexual awakening, Isabelle remains curiously aloof, exhibiting little interest in the encounters themselves or the money she makes. The story is told in four sections, each tied to a season and ending with a Françoise Hardy song. Featured in MIFF 2014’s Cinema 360° presented by Viendomovies program. OPENS Friday, May 23rd at MDC’s Tower Theater, Miami Beach Cinematheque and Bill Cosford Cinema.

In The Immigrant, James Gray’s depiction of the unforgiving streets of 1920s New York, Polish immigrant Ewa Cybulski (Marion Cotillard) falls into the cruel trap of prostitution set by a sleazy show-runner (Joaquin Phoenix) in order to save her sister. Cotillard made history as the first French actress to win the Best Actress Oscar (for La Vie en Rose) and is currently in Cannes for the world premiere of yet another remarkable role in Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne’s Two Days, One Night (Deux jours, une nuit.) This is also the fourth collaboration of Phoenix and Gray. Featured in MIFF 2014’s America the Beautiful program. OPENS Friday, May 23rd at AMC Sunset Place and AMC Aventura.

Fading Gigolo, Eastern Boys, Midnight Cowboy film posters

Actor-director John Turturro’s hilarious NY comedy, Fading Gigolo, finds Woody Allen as a late-blooming pimp to Turturro’s middle-aged florist-turned hustler, where popular screen sirens Sharon Stone and Sofia Vergara turn up as eager clients and Vanessa Paradis plays an orthodox Jewish widow in need of human touch. Featured in MIFF’s CineDwnTwn Gala presented by Miami DDA program. Now screening at Coral Gables Art Cinema and AMC Aventura.

In Robin Campillo’s superbly scripted dramatic thriller, Eastern Boys, a middle-aged Frenchman cruising in the Gare du Nord gets entangled with a group of young Eastern European hustlers and gets more than he bargained for. By turns, a tender love story, a terrifying home-invasion drama and a tense hide-and-seek thriller, features the most unexpected ending of the year. Featured in MIFF 2014’s Cinema 360° presented by Viendomovies program.

John Schlesinger’s ever-impactful Midnight Cowboy (1969) which delivers a provocative look at the streets of New York and the relationship between two small-time hustlers played by 
Jon Voight and Dustin Hoffman. It has become one of the defining symbols of the difficult side of urban life in America and is the only “X” rated film to win the Academy Award for Best Picture and Best Director.  Featured in MIFF 2014’s From the Vault program.

Harry Liedtke and Pola Negri in the The Yellow Ticket

Going a bit deeper into the vault, MIFF 2013 held a special screening The Yellow Ticket (1918), a story of courage and hidden identities directed by Victor Janson and Eugen Illès. The first film to explore anti-Semitism in Czarist Russia, it portrays the story of Lea (played by famed Polish actress Pola Negri, Hollywood’s first European silent film star), a young woman who hides her Jewish heritage to study medicine. Pushed towards prostitution to pay the rent, Lea is saved by a beloved professor with a secret of his own.  —Tatyana Chiocchetti

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Jaie Laplante

Jaie Laplante is the Miami Film Festival's executive director and director of programming. Learn more about Jaie on Programmers.