Monday, May 21, 2018

THE MISANDRISTS proves a step backward (or, rather, a return to form) for Bruce LaBruce

With Gerontophilia (back in 2013), GLBT director Bruce LaBruce (shown below) proved at last that he could make a movie and tell a story that resonated politically, philosophically, culturally, socially, and emotionally while holding it all together. Up until then, while he'd done each of those things at some point along the way via various films, he usually did this rather clunkily so that plot and politics, humor and emotion (very little of the latter, as I recall) stood apart from each other, never really melding fluently into the whole. Characters would often spout some philosophy before going back "into" character to further the plot.

This was often done humorously (at least I suspect that was B laB's reasoning) but it grew tiresome quickly. With his latest film (made in Germany), THE MISANDRISTS, he's back into this stand-apart format during which the audience is treated to political/gender philosophizing that, despite its being so important to the tale the filmmaker is telling, is still handled clunkily enough to keep getting in the way of his story and its very real and could-have-been-major entertainment value.

I had to look up the word misandrist, and the very idea that I had to do this intrigued me. We're much more familiar with the words misogynist (one who dislikes women) and misanthrope (one who dislikes the human race in general), yet we almost never see or hear misandrist written or spoken -- so unusual is its use in our society, culture and media for us to even be aware of the possibility of singling out the male as the dislikeable object. Mr. LaBruce, no doubt, is more than aware of this. Consequently the patriarchy takes quite a deserved drubbing in his film.

The tale the filmmaker tells takes place in 1999 (for whatever reason -- pre 9-11-2001? -- I'm not sure) in the German countryside in a supposed school for wayward girls, supposedly run by a group of nuns. In reality (or what passes for same in a B laB film), this school's actually a training ground for the Female Liberation Army, which is planning to take over the state, if not the world, by virtue of a secret scheme which we eventually learn at film's finale, and which seems about as goofy and and nonsensical as all else we've seen.

One day, as two of the girls from this school frolic sexually in a field nearby the woods, they encounter a young man -- an out-of-favor leftist -- injured and on-the-run from the authorities. One of the girls decides to rescue him, hiding him in the basement of the school. A few complications ensue. And that's pretty much the entire plot.

Along the way we're treated to the usual philosophizing (sort of), satire (sort of), humor (sort of) and very camp sensibility, the special combination of which is the hallmark of B laB. There are oddball moments of fun (a sudden Charleston done by one of the nuns), lots of sex (mostly lesbian but a little homo, via some gay pornography the girls are made to watch as one of the plot points here), and the filmmaker's penchant for overkill (a pillow fight among the girls that goes on ad infinitum).

LaBruce's goal, it seems, is to convince the world that boundaries -- sexual, gender, political, philosophical -- are all somehow nonsensical. While I can understand and somewhat identify with this idea, he is neither a witty enough writer nor a good enough filmmaker to make his case with any great success. Maybe B sees his role as mostly that of prankster, in which case, he succeeds. Somewhat, at least. Why introduce a "mystery" character peering out of the school's attic window early on and seen periodically along the way, and then never explain her existence in your film -- unless pranking -- and/or upending expectations -- is your main concern?

Performances by the oddball assemble cast are OK overall (they get the job done), but the actor who best exemplifies the B laB style is his semi-regular, Susanne Sachße (shown below), who plays the school's "commandant" with the proper style, subtlety and wit.

If you're already a major fan of B laB's work (outside of Gerontophilia, which is probably way too "mainstream" for his heavy-duty fans), you will probably embrace The Misandrists with much more zest and enjoyment than could I.

You'll get your chance when the movie -- from Cartilage Films and running 91 minutes -- opens this Friday, May 25, in New York City at the Village East Cinema, and the following Friday, June 1, in Los Angeles at the Landmark NuArt

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