Intended as a meditation on mortality and morality, Vadim Glowna’s adaptation of a Yasunari Kawabata novel simultaneously strives towards portentous poeticism and thriller intrigue, but falls more into tawdry B-movie territory instead. Written, directed, and produced by the German filmmaker, who also stars as protagonist Edmond, House of the Sleeping Beauties follows a man in the literal and figurative winter of his life. Edmond begins to visit the titular maison upon the advice of longtime friend Kogi (Maximilian Schell), who creepily persuades him by saying, “I only feel really alive when lying beside someone somnolent.”
Battling an entrenched loneliness following the deaths of his wife and daughter to a car accident some years prior, the character unsuccessfully courts audience sympathy as he goes forth in his, frankly, skanky quest for human contact. The bordello is outfitted in shades of crimson and jade and decked out with gauzy canopy curtains, nude paintings and ornate fixtures; the smell of perfume and cigarette nearly emanate from the screen. The head of the house, simply called Madame (Angela Winkler), is in the business of renting out warm bodies, young and beautiful, to old men. Though they pay to sleep with the girls, engaging in actual sex with the alleged virgins is against the rules. Click here to read the rest of Kristi Mitsuda’s review of House of Sleeping Beauties.