It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
It makes a certain amount of sense. Some men, deprived of a sense of power, compensate by assaulting the weaker. Others, uncomfortable because they have so much power, pay to have someone take command. Certainly the second part of that scenario is borne out by "Fetishes,'' a documentary by Nick Broomfield that is fascinating, horrifying, funny and sad.
Broomfield is the BBC documentarian who specializes in films about sex for cash. Early in his career he made a doc about a Nevada brothel, and last year he made "Heidi Fleiss, Hollywood Madam," a version of that famous case in which Fleiss emerges more sinned against than sinning. "Heidi Fleiss'' was one of the year's best films, an unblinking portrait of the manipulation of one person by another. "Fetishes'' is not as powerful a film because it lacks the drama of a woman going to jail while the deeper corruption of her lover goes unpunished. But it provides an unblinking portrait of the S & M world that is joked about on late-night talk shows but rarely seen--certainly not in this detail.
Broomfield, who travels light, works with a cameraman and acts as his own sound man. He enters a situation and records it while it is happening, making no attempt to conceal his mike and camera. He spent two months in Pandora's Box, described as an upscale Manhattan S & M brothel where the clients pay up to $1,000 to have the dominatrixes enact elaborate physical and mental fantasies for them.
Is brothel the right word? The women insist they never, ever have sex with their clients. The woman in charge is Mistress Raven, who must have a snapshot of Cher tacked up next to her vanity mirror. She is intelligent, articulate, thoughtful. She explains the rationale behind her operation. Then we see her and the other women at work on their clients.