Should you ever wonder what the word spitfire means, look no further than Martine and Louise Fokken. These Rubenesque, ruddy-cheeked blonds are pushing 70 but still laugh loudly and talk straight as the affable twin matriarchs of Amsterdam’s red-light district. Louise recently retired because of arthritis; Martine, however, still turns tricks, flagging down men from behind a store window and sporting dominatrix duds, such as full-body lace and patent leather. Though they’ve encountered their share of hardships—abusive husbands, societal scorn, the sheer labor of entertaining upwards of ten clients per day for almost half a century—the sisters wear their accumulated experiences remarkably well.
This gentle documentary portrait goes down easily—almost too easily. (Kudos to the Fokkens for being so good-natured, but their prostitution still stems from troubling economic need). Yet softening a few edges ultimately allows filmmakers Gabrielle Provaas and Rob Schröder to normalize lives that could easily have been exploited for self-righteous judgment or mockery. Truthfully, watching septuagenarian whores spank mildly titillated johns and test-drive sex toys has never seemed so ho-hum—or so oddly familiar. If there’s a tug of sadness to this (off-)colorful tale, it has less to do with sympathy for these resilient women than with how easily their compromised lives can be related to our own.
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