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Synopsis: Grandes Horizontales is a documentary about the lives, loves and enduring influence in art, literature and fashion of the Grandes Horizontales – the A-list of courtesans, the pop stars of their day. They were marked by an extravagant lifestyle, often ruinous to their patron or patrons as it took a handful of lovers to pay their expenses. It was said “their ability to wind men around their fingers while picking up a chateau or two on the side was legendary.”
Women and power are the main theme of the documentary. A never before in-depth look at the culture of the courtesan. It is about a group of women who took their circumstances and molded them to their advantage, to rise to the top of the pile of manure they were given, who turned it into gold.
Set during the Second Empire in France, 1852-1870. The Empire is run by Napoleon III. Paris is changing. It is the most decadent period in French history with plenty of sex, vanity and frivolity. It is a specific moment in time when the Grandes Horizontales enjoyed immense power and influence. With the economy stable, after 50 years of turbulence and revolution gold was pouring into Paris and through the tapered fingers of our ladies for sale. The GH were building huge mansions, employing dozens of servants, riding horse drawn carriages through the parks. They attended the opera, cafes and concerts and balls. At a time when women were not in charge of their own money, nor were they allowed to own property, nor could they divorce, and had very little say in who they married, the GH had a freedom that was unparalleled.
It isn’t for us to judge their choices but to reveal the answers behind the why and the what about these free-spirited, determined women that inspired decades of artists who tried to capture their likeness, their essence, their appeal.





Run Time

45 minutes


Michelle L'amour (Marie Duplessis)
Mosh (Cora Pearl)
Minxie Mimieux (Appollone Sabatier)
Heather Moiseve (Maid)

Directed by

Leslie Zemeckis

Written by

leslie zemeckis

Produced by

Donnalee Austen

Executive Producer

Robert Zemeckis

Edited by

Brent Sumner
Evann Finn


Clay Westervelt

Director's Statement

It is my passion to bring to light marginalized and stigmatized women in our pop culture and tell their true story.

Director's Bio

Leslie Zemeckis is a best-selling author, actress, and award-winning documentarian. Critically acclaimed films include Behind the Burly Q, the true story of old-time burlesque in America, Bound by Flesh about conjoined twin Daisy and Violet Hilton, and Mabel, Mabel, Tiger Trainer chronicling the extraordinary world of the first female tiger trainer, Mabel Stark. Her current film Grandes Horizontales about the lives and loves of the 19th Century courtesans in Paris has won numerous Best Documentary awards at festivals throughout the world.

Zemeckis is the author of three best-sellers, Behind the Burly Q, the definitive oral history of burlesque, Goddess of Love Incarnate; the Life of Stripteuse Lili St. Cyr and Feuding Fan Dancers, about Sally Rand, Faith Bacon and the golden age of the showgirl. She writes a monthly book column in the Montecito Journal and is the founder of the program “Stories Matter,” sponsored by SBIFF, with professional female authors mentoring the next generation of female storytellers.

Production Year


Official Website


leslie zemeckis



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