Small Australian towns and brothels have always had a symbiotic relationship - particularly mining communities, with large disposable incomes, few opportunities to spend, and plenty of pent-up energy. Like many of these towns, Kalgoorlie in Western Australia saw a rush of prospectors and prostitutes at the beginning of the 20th century. For a glimpse at how things have changed since then, we peek inside the last remaining brothel in the revealing documentary ‘The Pink House’.
Opening in 1904, Questa Casa has been offering its services to gentlemen in need for 113 years. While the town’s heyday has come and gone, along with all of the other brothels, Questa Casa remains operational under the strict guidance of Madam Carmel. When we first visit the venue, we also meet BJ, the longest-serving lady at The Pink House. Over time, we witness the evolution of Carmel and BJ’s relationship, see the ebb and flow of the clientele, and ponder the future of this business in a waning town.
This is an interesting story of survival - with the town inundated by cheaper Asian ladies, business is hard (or soft). To make ends meet, Carmel offers tours of this historic house - which are often sold out. People pack in to gawk at the rooms and listen to the stories of strange requests from clients - an element that also works for the documentary. A decent dose of humour is brought to the film by retellings of unusual encounters.
There are, however, numerous heavy topics to traverse - the fact that prostitution is illegal in Western Australia yet the police act oblivious, the morals of prostitution itself, and the future of the industry. BJ’s story of starting in the business isn’t pretty, and her life is far from stable - throughout the documentary, she’s working at the house, then out on her own, then back in the house, with actions more akin to a rebellious teenager than a 45-year-old woman. It’s a situation she doesn’t necessarily want to be in, but doesn’t change due to a lack of direction.
Although not for the faint of heart, ‘The Pink House’ handles the subject of a brothel with a lot more sophistication than you might expect. There are feuds, tales, fights, laughs, tears, hope - and, of course, sex. A good night out by anyone’s standards.