If John Waters and Karl Marx co-directed a remake of The Beguiled, the resulting feature would be very much like Bruce LaBruce’s The Misandrists.
(A misandrist, by the way, is “a person who dislikes, despises, or is strongly prejudiced against men.”)
Mr. LaBruce, for the uninitiated, is a man . . . and a highly subversive one at that with a cult following. Yes, for over two decades, this queer underground filmmaker has shocked and entertained with his tongue-in-cheek-and-elsewhere oeuvre. Hustler White (1996) starred an ex-beau of Madonna’s in an ode to L.A. male prostitution that includes a white, very blond boytoy being gangbanged by a very long line of African American hunks. Think of Trader Joe’s on a Sunday afternoon. Gerontophilia (2013) focuses on a young man discovering he has the hots for the male geriatric clientele of a nursing home. Then Otto; or, Up with Dead People (2008) chronicles with a gory finesse the plight of a carnivorous, neo-Goth gay zombie.
All of LaBruce’s screenplays are slathered with his punk, dystopian, Wildean wit. For example, the ultra-anarchic The Raspberry Reich (2004) includes the pithy exchange:
“Heterosexuality is the opiate of the masses.”
“I thought opiates were the opiate of the masses.”
Now in his latest deliriously silly, although politically astute, offering, LaBruce pushes the Me Too movement to a mental landscape that will have the Weinsteins of the world quaking in their Guccis.
The year is 1999, and on an isolated country estate in Ger(wo)many the Female Liberation Army (FLA) resides. Founded by the didactic and campily sadistic Big Mother (Susanne Sachsse), the FLA is ragtag collection of young women she’s collected off the streets. Some were prostitutes, some were homeless, and others petty criminals. Then there are four older women, oft dressed as nuns, who serve as instructors to the lasses, and state such inspirational mantras as: “We must tell the world to wake up and smell the estrogen” and “Remember, girls, the closest way to a man’s heart is through his chest.”
As for the group’s dinner chant: “Blessed is the goddess of all worlds that has made me a woman.”
The film begins, not unlike the Clint Eastwood classic, with a wounded soldier, Volker (Til Schindler), being come upon by the somber Isolde (Kita Updike) and the horny Hilda (Olivia Kundisch). This is after he’s been running through the woods, chased by dogs, for quite a while, stopping only to pee on several trees. Collapsing, Volker asks for shelter. Hilda, who has an unrequited crush on Isolde, knows it’s against the rules to bring a male home. Isolde, who loves her back only as a “comrade,” convinces her pal to help hide this stranger in the FLA’s basement. They do so, knowing if discovered their punishment will be relentless and possibly fatal. Oh, no!
Meanwhile, upstairs, several ladyfolk are viewing extremely explicit gay male porn in order to master cinematic techniques for their forthcoming Pornutopia—A World without Men, a lesbian sex extravaganza that will radicalize all women who watch it, causing them to eventually overthrow the male patriarchal society.
Before the girls get that far, there will be orgies with numerous hardboiled eggs and one strawberry, a castration, a pillow fight, loads of gender fluidity, jitterbugging, and a pummeling with a sock filled with apples. The affable acting for the most part, with several exceptions, is apropos of what you’d expect from an Ed Wood offering such as Glen or Glenda. Some of the sets, though, are visually startling, and the makeup is inspirational. But more important is the film’s message that Sister Dagmar so succinctly voices: “A woman is a fever that never subsides.” Or does Big Mother have the last word: “No one fucks with a nun!” Now who would argue with that? - Brandon Judell
Mr. Judell has written on film for The Village Voice, indieWire.com, the New York Daily News, Soho Style, and The Advocate, and is anthologized in Cynthia Fuchs's Spike Lee Interviews (University Press of Mississippi) and John Preston's A Member of the Family (Dutton). He is also a member of the performance/writing group FlashPoint.