A Bruce La Bruce film is like a Queer ‘Chef’s Special’, from a menu where you have to be prepared for the unusual, the Queer-centric, the transgressive, often violent, where sexuality is used to break taboos, an oeuvre that challenges and confronts society’s mores, well, that’s what we have been used to over the years from the Canadian director. The arrival of The Misandrists, is served up with a 1970s European filmic sensibility and, may be the one that tests the fans of the Queercore Punk auteur. Screening at this year’s Melbourne Queer Film Festival, could it be the feminist we have been waiting for?
Misandry aside, the story is a satirical take on ‘radical feminism’ where men hating is the norm and the male species are just “pendulous, ponderous and perverse”. Our heroines are in an all female political cult called the Female Liberation Army (FLA), a feminist faction organising to destroy the Patriarchy with Porn. The separatist school is set in what looks to be an old Nunnery. There is genuinely something whimsical and nostalgic about old Chateau’s and women dressed as Roman Catholic nuns leading a chant of “Freedom for Female People”.
Nuns teach the girls Parthenogenesis amongst other radical concepts, led by a Mother Superior called ‘Big Mother’ ( played with vampishness by La Bruce’s ‘muse’ Susanne Sachesse ). BM wants all the girls to be an army of lesbian lovers, as Hilde one of the converted says:”we are free to love whoever we want as long as they have a vagina”. Meanwhile preparations are being made for the creation of their deadliest weapon on men : ‘Pornutopia, World Without Men A Movie by the FLA’, so when a leftist radical, a man, wounded, stumbles upon the feminist den, and is hidden by one of the girls, things become a low budget campier version of Sofia Coppola’s Beguiled. Yes, there are some squeamish moments in the film, but the formula works best with the diversity of actors and there are some delicious one liners that prove the “Hilariously erotic film maker of Fagdom” ( as once described by Kurt Cobain) has still got something to say.
If, however, you are looking for the notorious La Bruce signature of blood, gore and orgiastic sex, you will be a tad disappointed. Where La Bruce’s L.A Zombie (2010) was a spectacle of ‘gay alien hardcore’ porn, and Otto, or Up With Dead People (2008) where getting a ribbing took on a whole new meaning, this new cinematic dish is his tamest manifesto.
Sonja Hammer is a First Nations woman from Aotearoa. Sonja created the Queer Geeks of Oz advocacy group, appearing at Oz Comic Con, ACME, Armageddon, PAX, Queer Con and other pop culture conventions. She’s hosted films at Girls on Film Festival and Melbourne Queer Film Festival. Sonja attended the screen writers lab at Stranger With My Face Feminist Film Festival in Tasmania, and recently the Critics Lab at Melbourne Women’s Film Festival.