The Dirty Girls has frequently been cited as the first “real” Radley Metzger film, after a few preliminary directorial efforts in the non-erotic realm. It certainly sets the stage for the films that followed—the first shot shows a woman’s hand suggestively lifting her telephone receiver off its cradle to prevent any interruptions. Actually, the film sets a few stages, as this sort of Mondo Battona (complete with faux-documentary voice-over narration following the characters around like an eloquent, omniscient gnat) details the completely separate lives of two prostitutes (one in Paris, the other in Munich) in short, anthology film format.
First is Garance, the Parisian street walker who picks up gentlemen in the corner bistro. An impossibly well-scrubbed girl, Garance’s encounters might seem disparate at a glance. In the first, she’s teaching a jittery neophyte the art of seduction (meanwhile, he’s inching ever closer to premature ejaculation with each piece of clothing Garance removes). In the second, she is horrified to discover she’s picked up a violent misogynist who whips her with his belt and attempts to rape her until the septuagenarian brothel concierge comes to her rescue. And finally she meets up with her long-standing client, a fatherly type who busts nuts over being beaten by a uniform-clad Garance. Simple enough: three customers, three outcomes, all in a night’s work. But there’s a subtle (i.e. easy to ignore if you happened to be a raincoat-wearing pervert circa the film’s initial release) feminist bent behind Metzger’s organization of the “chapters” in this first “book” of Dirty Girls, a double-time reawakening that showcases Garance’s disillusioned loss of sexual authority and subsequent climb back into the saddle, as it were (complete with horsewhip). The speed with which Metzger manages to unfurl this three-hanky redemption haiku only serves to accentuate the sad resignation of Garance’s fate: she relives this melodrama every night.
In contrast, Monique, the film’s second test case, may be (to quote the loopy narrator) “the woman of 10,000 pleasures” and an extremely-well-reputed-woman-of-ill-repute, but her sense of sexual worth is apparently the property of “Laurence,” whose call she waits for night after indifferently sex-ridden night entertaining obnoxiously eager American tourists and attending the sort of poolside party where ennui-stricken millionaire sugardaddies dangle diamond bracelets on fishing poles over the grasping hands of swimming call girls. Lest any of these scenarios get too heavy, Metzger devotes most of his attention to the little idiosyncrasies of pre-coital instincts (and misfires). Naturally, it all culminates in a cheeky, lesbian tease that seemed, to me, as though Metzger was winkingly cutting through all pretensions, effectively saying “I ain’t trying to teach you a damned thing.”