The documentary introduces viewers to the sex trade in various countries.
The Austrian filmmaker Michael Glawogger divides his time between fiction and nonfiction, but the sights captured in his documentaries can be more horrific than any dreamed up by the most nihilistic fantasist. The most memorable section of Workingman’s Death, which drops in on some of the planet’s shittiest jobs, wanders around an open-air abbatoir in Nigeria, a Boschian hellscape where gloomy skies oversee graphic mutilations and rivers of blood. Whores’ Glory, the most recent product of Glawogger’s love for globetrotting, isn’t quite so unsightly. Even the climactic inclusion of an actual sex scene is dominated by the calm professionalism of the sex worker, who coldly cuts off her client the second their time is up. As with the rest of the film, the tone is nonjudgmental but not un-horrified.
A triptych that takes us to Bangkok, Bangladesh and a cut-off, motel-strewn section of Mexico called “The Zone,” Whores’ Glory gets viewers acclimated to how each sex system works. Thai hookers pose behind glass for men who complain that their wives are “cold fish” in bed. “Mothers” in Bangladesh keep watch over a limited number of young employees, who have to feed the unlimited sexual appetites of their crowded district’s hugely horny men. (“When I get a break I go the bazaar and fuck,” says one. “It’s all I think about.”)
Early on Glawogger includes a gratuitous shot of dogs fucking—intended, surely, as a suggestion that this is a view of man at his most animalistic. But the moment is an anomaly. The commentary in Glawogger’s films is strictly implied—he doesn’t use narration, and only occasionally converses with his subjects—and here, he strikes a balance between exposing the dire situations that forced these women into the Oldest Profession and maintaining a respect for their professionalism and resolve. He doesn’t judge as one worker briefly stops a monologue to the camera to loudly offer an off-screen passer-by oral sex, but he does keep in a part where a Thai hooker talks about how she doesn’t do Africans. He reveals that some Bangkok sex workers pour their earnings into hiring male escorts of their own—the profession eating itself like an ouroboros. Truth isn’t always stranger than fiction, but Glawogger’s docs show that it’s frequently more messed up.