May 22, 2017


Although some might assume otherwise due to some of my writings, I consider myself a dark romantic of sorts and I am somewhat of a sucker for films about ‘mad love,’ especially of the tragic star-crossed lovers orientated sort. Of course, that also means that I absolutely despise popular Hollywood romantic-comedies like When Harry Met Sally... (1989) and There's Something About Mary (1998) where some physically weak (and oftentimes Jewish) beta-boy grovels and cons his way into the pretty pink panties of a dumb blonde shiksa that cannot seem to find a real red-blooded mensch that sufficiently sops her undies. Hell, I even consider the unrequited love story depicted in the Hollywood Golden Age classic Gone with the Wind (1939) to be far more preferable to enduring the unequivocally soul-draining cinematic torture test of watching some smart-ass semite like Woody Allen or Seth Rogen bullshit their way into defiling some dumb Aryan dame that cannot see past the phony ‘nice guy’ routine. Needless to say, there are only a handful of romance films that I truly appreciate and one of them I actually watched rather recently. Indeed, while I have mixed feelings about the film’s director's oeuvre in general, Maîtresse (1975) directed by Swiss auteur Barbet Schroeder (Barfly, Single White Female) is certainly a rebellious dark romance that I can completely get behind, even though I was not exactly enticed by most of the film’s sometimes explicit BDSM and bondage related sexual content (though there is a nice scene where a babe with a delectable derriere is bent over and beat on the bare ass and pussy lips with a leather belt).  A strangely yet mirthfully bittersweet love story featuring an endearingly unconventional romance between an uneducated and somewhat boorish yet genuinely kindhearted prole thief and a super chic and sophisticated yet emotionally impenetrable professional dominatrix with an upper-class clientele that is mostly comprised of masochistic aristocrats and businessmen, the film depicts the complicated relationship problems that arise when an ice queen of a whore falls prey to love and has her entire S&M operation put into jeopardy because she actually experiences the warmth of love and thus becomes less impassioned when it comes to exercising her savagely sadistic trade. 

 Arguably more talented as a documentarian than a feature filmmaker as demonstrated by his previous documentary work General Idi Amin Dada: A Self Portrait (1974), Schroeder was somewhat strangely suited to direct Maîtresse—the director's first truly successful feature after directing a couple relatively obscure counterculture flicks, including More (1969) and La Vallée (1972) aka Obscured By Clouds—in the sense that the film has a certain unmistakable authenticity as the filmmaker wisely decided to hire real masochists, who apparently happily paid for the (dis)pleasure, to engage in real S&M torture scenes that would be immortalized in celluloid form. Additionally, Schroeder befriended a real-life dominatrix, who gave him important intimate details regarding both her carnal trade and personal sex life. While I have never been particularly a fan of S&M or having women beat the shit out of me during sex, the fiercely foul fetishistic acts depicted in the film surprisingly act as a nice contrast to the unconventionally tender moments of real romantic love between the two protagonists. Whether intentional or not, the film also features a somewhat subtle, yet nonetheless scathing, critique of the bourgeoisie and its dubious vices. In short, the film makes it seem as if every single upper-class gentleman is a nihilistically uptight sexually degenerate that is so hopelessly masochistic that they enjoy things like role-playing as their own servants and having nails driven into their cocks. On the other hand, not unlike the poof prole played by Rainer Werner Fassbinder in his film Faustrecht der Freiheit (1975) aka Fox and His Friends, the working-class crook portrayed by Gérard Depardieu in Schroeder’s film is an extremely sexually virile and fairly sexually sane individual that is naturally completely baffled by S&M degeneracy. 

Featuring costume design by fashion alpha-queen Karl Lagerfeld, cinematography by gay Spanish master cinematographer and AIDS victim Néstor Almendros (The Wild Child, Days of Heaven), and various masochistic men in bizarre drag, Maîtresse is certainly, at least on a superficial level, a quasi-queer flick with certain cultivated camp elements, which is somewhat paradoxical considering its potent heterosexual love story.  As demonstrated by French fag flicks that were also made during the 1970s like Philippe Vallois' Johan - Mon été 75 (1976) and Lionel Soukaz's Race d'Ep: un siècle d'images de l'homosexualité (1979) aka The Homosexual Century, S&M and bondage was also all the rage among chic cocksuckers during that time.  Thankfully, Schroeder’s film somewhat unintentionally makes extremely realistic S&M and bondage seem like a sad sick joke when compared to the majesty of organic heterosexual love. Featuring an emotionally glacial heroine that is petrified by love and commitment who soon discovers that her distinguished talent for beating the shit out of men wanes when she falls in love with a man that knows how to sexuality dominate her and make her feel like a real woman as opposed to simply a cruel and callous ice queen, Maîtresse could even be described as anti-S&M, though I seriously doubt this was Schroeder’s intention.  In fact, as Schroeder proudly explains in an interview featured on the Criterion Collection DVD release of the film, many real-life dominatrixes complimented on the authenticity of his feature.  Of course, Schroeder should be admired for attempting the impossible task of giving respect and dignity to the completely degenerate and undignified.

 Undoubtedly, it is only natural that Maîtresse—arguably the first film to take a serious and realistic view of dominatrixes and S&M subcultures and the sort of people and psychologies that are attracted to such self-debasement—was made in the same nation that produced the debauched aristocratic philosopher, the Marquis de Sade, who is indubitably a timeless source for all-things-proudly-impure as the wickedly wanton wordsmith that literally inspired the term ‘sadism.’  Undoubtedly, in a strange way, de Sade’s famous quote, “In order to know virtue, we must first acquaint ourselves with vice,” is a major theme of the film in the sense that debauchery and criminality strangely leads to the protagonists' quite virtuous true love romance. Indeed, it is only when the heroine—played by La Nouvelle Vague diva Bulle Ogier in a masterful performance that was arguably foreshadowed in Jacques Baratier's surrealist S&M gothic Piège (1968)—actually experiences true love that her talent for sadism declines and she finds herself unable to perform her role as a vamp-like dominatrix that thrives on the sexual suffering of rich and powerful men.  While a somewhat unhinged bitch that seems to prefer giving pain over receiving pleasure, the heroine has no problem eventually making the distinction between love and sadomasochism when she actually encounters a man that is worthy enough to make her wet. Of course, the heroine’s dominatrix persona is not much more than a protective shield for her deep-seated emotion immaturity and fear of emotional attachment and, in turn, feminine submission.

Although other films had previously been made in France about sadomasochism, including Pierre-Alain Jolivet's rarely-seen Fernando Arrabal adaptation Le Grand Ceremonial (1968) aka Weird Weirdo, film critic Jean-Pierre Bouyxou's experimental underground short Satan bouche un coin (1968), and homo artsploitation auteur Jacques Scandelari’s debauched de Sade adaptation La philosophie dans le boudoir (1971) aka Beyond Love and Evil, these films are superlatively sensational works that merely use S&M to shock and titillate. Undoubtedly, one of the most shocking aspects of Maîtresse is its innate lack of sensationalism and almost detached objectivity in terms of depicting the strictly professional relationship between a dick-nailing and ass-whipping Madame and her mostly morbidly masochistic customers. Not surprisingly, despite Schroeder going out of his way to depict them in as an objective and ‘respectful’ manner as possible, the masochists still come off seeming like pathetic sexual cripples that would have surely been thrown in a bog by their ancient ancestors, but I digress. 

 Despite being a quite menacing dominatrix that really knows how to thoroughly brutalize her high paying johns, emotionally glacial (anti)heroine Ariane (Ogier) seems completely incapable of managing anything resembling a normal life and prefers to keep her loved ones at a safe distance. Indeed, as Maîtresse unravels, the viewer discovers that, although she has a swarthy live-in maid and beastly Doberman named ‘Texas,’ Ariane curiously does not live with her own young son and seems scantly involved with his life, at least in a real-life context, despite claiming in regard to the little lad that, “He’s the [only] man in my life.”  In short, while Ariane has no problem beating the shit out of queens, queers, and anally retentive bluebloods, she is terribly afraid of emotional commitment and truly sharing her life with another human-being. As a boorish yet sweet, strong yet sensitive, and low-class yet naturally charismatic prole crook, muscular male protagonist Olivier (Depardieu) is Ariane’s complete opposite and both ultimately prove that opposites truly attract just like sadism and masochism.

 At the beginning of the film, Olivier and his swarthy conman comrade Mario (André Rouyer) visit various apartments under the false pretense of selling art books as a means to covertly raid various flats and steal valuable objects.  As a very hospitable hood-with-a-heart-of-gold, Olivier almost immediately expresses dismay with Mario's criminal plan, but he is also not the sort of guy that likes to let down a friend and thus goes along with the rather stupid scheme. Upon knocking on one door, they are greeted by a semi-hysterical Ariane, who begs them to help her with her plumbing lest her apartment become completely flooded with water. Upon talking to Ariane, Olivier and Mario are delighted to discover that “the old woman downstairs is on vacation” and thus seize the opportunity to rob the supposedly empty apartment. Rather unfortunately (or rather fortunately for Olivier as things turn out), Ariane was lying, as the apartment is actually a sort of secret makeshift S&M dungeon, so naturally Olivier and Mario are somewhat bewildered when they discover bondage gear, torture devices, gimp masks, and even an imprisoned male slave in the lavishly decorated Art Deco (anti)pleasure-dome. Of course, things get even more bizarre when a secret door opens in the ceiling and Ariane, who is sporting a savagely dapper dominatrix outfit, proceeds to walk down a set of stairs that emerges from said door. Needless to say, the two crooks find themselves imprisoned when Ariane’s loyal Doberman appears out of nowhere and begins growling at them, but Olivier soon discovers that he has finally become trapped in a prison that he won’t mind living in.  A woman that lives two very different lives in two very different yet symbolically secretly conjoined apartments that represent a sort of bourgeois heaven and hell, Ariane is a bewildering bitch that completely baffles poor philistine Olivier, yet he is a man that knows what he likes and he instantly takes a special liking to the eloquently eccentric dominatrix dame.

 When Ariane first notices the two burglars and realizes that they are the two chaps that helped her fix the plumbing in her apartment, she remarks in a less impassioned fashion, “Oh. You again!,” asks them, “Aren’t you ashamed of yourselves?,” handcuffs them to a furnace, and then declares, “I’ll be with you in a moment.” Indeed, Ariane is so deeply devoted to her sex work that she opts to torture one of her victims before dealing with the crooks. Somewhat unpredictably, Ariane interrupts her torture session temporarily to approach Olivier and nonchalantly say to him, “I need you. Two hundred francs for three minutes’ work.” Needless to say, Olivier immediately accepts the unexpected offer, though he is somewhat taken aback when Ariane digs in his pants, grabs his cock, and demands that he piss on her groveling leather-clad man-slave. Notably, in the middle of the urine-drenched torture session in what is undoubtedly one of the most inordinately romantic scenes in cinema history, Ariane and Olivier reveal their singular romantic chemistry by passionately making out with one another without even the slightest bit hesitation, as if they are long lost lovers that have been reunited after a decade of grueling separation.  Indeed, although he is in the middle of pissing on a strange man's face, Olivier's mutual sexual attraction to Ariane is so strong that he cannot help but expressing his overwhelming carnal passion for her with a rather long kiss that more or less symbolically unites them as lovers.

For Olivier and Ariane, it is virtually love-at-first-sight. After paying off Mario to leave him alone with money that he was going to use pay for a date, Olivier immediately takes Ariane out on a dinner date at a fancy restaurant where they incessantly shamelessly flirt while drinking tons of wine. During the date, the two reveal some of their more glaring flaws to one another, with Oliver confessing, “I don’t really have a past” and Ariane somewhat disturbingly admitting, “You shouldn’t ask me questions because either I lie or I don’t answer them” and “I’m not the cautious type.” As two individuals with uniquely unsavory pasts, it is no surprise that the two new eccentric lovebirds are easily able to overlook each others’ flaws, at least at first. Indeed, Ariane does not even mind having to pay for the dinner date that Olivier asked her to go out on. In fact, she is completely flattered when she discovers that Olivier used the dinner date money to payoff Mario so that they could be alone with one another. Needless to say, the two fuck that night and Olivier even goes so far as to get Ariane all hot in bothered by violently grabbing her and threatening, “I could kill you now if I wanted. Just like that. One squeeze and you’re dead.” Unfortunately for their relationship, Olivier eventually begins to adopt a more passive and masochistic role as the romance develops while Ariane begins to lose her dominatrix talents, thus eventually leading to serious conflict. 

 During the l'heure bleue after their first dinner date together in a scene that almost has a dream-like feel to it, Olivier reveals his ordinate sensitivity and sense of compassion and empathy by confiding to Ariane that he used to work in a slaughterhouse but found the job “awful,” so he quit or as he remarks, “After a few days, I started to get used to it, so I quit.”  Indeed, quite unlike Ariane who basks in brutality, Olivier cannot stand harming living things and will do anything to avoid it.  As deathly cold dominatrix that thrives off of hurting and humiliating others, Ariane clearly has no use for compassion and is clearly afraid of having positive feelings of any sort, especially when it comes to other human beings. A hyper hermetic whore with an ominously flat effect that hides behind a sadistic persona and hardly ever expresses any emotions unless they are negative, Ariane also seems terribly afraid of people getting to know her true self and even carefully guards virtually every faucet of her personal life from Olivier despite the fact he lives with her. While it is obvious that Olivier absolutely loves and adores Ariane, she treats him like a sort of glorified fuck-toy and seems ashamed of his working-class wardrobe, hence why she goes out of her way to buy him a fancy suit that he has nil interest in wearing. In fact, Ariane is such a control freak that she physically attempts to stop Olivier when he drives her car during a trip to the country.  Indeed, Ariane has such little trust for men, including the one that she loves, that she cannot even bear to let Olivier take the wheel of her automobile.  While she never clearly vocalizes it, Ariane's behavior and actions demonstrate that she is a misandrist as a woman that lives to emasculate men and refuses to submit to any man. Notably, Ariane's strange combination of cold sophistication and anti-male sadism is subtly symbolically depicted by a famous photo of White Russian intellectual whore Lou Andreas-Salomé whipping Teutonic philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche and his suicidal Jewish friend Paul Rée that the heroine has tapped to the headboard of her bed. While Olivier initially tolerates Ariane’s odious occupation and even takes part in some of the beatings (including whipping the big bare ass and teasing the clit of some random chick with his belt), he has a very hard time understanding the appeal of such debauchery and eventually becomes jealous, not least of all because the heroine seems more interest in working than fucking. 

 As time passes, Olivier comes to discover that Ariane has some dubious business arrangement with a somewhat Godot-esque mystery man simply known as ‘Gautier’ (Holger Löwenadler of Ingmar Bergman's A Ship to India (1947) and Louie Malle's Lacombe, Lucien (1974)). Naturally, Olivier assumes Gautier is Ariane’s pimp, especially after he discovers that she has been giving the old man large amounts of cash.  Needless to say, Olivier is not happy when Ariane asks him to open a banking account in his name to store some of the whoring money, but he does it anyway because he loves his beloved and hates to cause senseless drama. Not surprisingly, Olivier becomes especially concerned when Ariane calls Gautier after making a half-hearted attempt at suicide via defenestration. Unbeknownst to Olivier, Ariane’s erratic self-destructive behavior is a result of the fact that she is losing her talent for sadism due to her love for him. As someone that gets off to feeding her pet Venus flytraps meat and saying cutesy things to the pet plants like, “My darlings are hungry,” Ariane is not exactly the sort of women that knows how completely process and live with true love. Indeed, instead of simply buying her flowers and chocolates, Olivier must demonstrate his love to Ariane by engaging in sort of hardcore roleplaying scenarios, including (pseudo)raping her from behind at knife point in a dark alley. As demonstrated by her remark, “It’s fascinating to get into people’s madness,” Ariane lives for the lurid and lecherous, especially when she ‘directs’ such scenarios while working as a dominatrix. When Olivier gets made at her for attempting to go back to one of her johns only minutes after suffering a mental breakdown and complains to her, “Enough playing the whore and then breaking down!,” Ariane has no problem bragging that she is a prostitute and even replying with a certain self-assured arrogance, “I’m not playing the whore. I am a whore, and I like it. I chose this life.” After the two get in a short slapping match, Ariane confesses that her johns really mean nothing to her, stating in a somewhat somber fashion, “It’s not them. It’s you. I love you, and it scares me.” Probably partly due to the fact that she thinks Olivier is a stupid male bimbo and witless philistine, Ariane thinks she can continue her trade and dubious relationship with Gautier while in a relationship with the protagonist, but it is only a matter of time before everything falls apart, including her carefully cultivated persona. 

 When Ariane brags one day regarding Gautier that, “He’s a great horse who wins every race. Thanks to him, we’re gonna go on vacation,” Olivier finally comes to the point where he can no longer tolerant his lover’s secrecy and dubious relationship with a strange fellow that he assumes a pimp. Indeed, after doing some serious snooping and eventually discovering Gautier’s address, Olivier pays the mysterious “great horse” an unexpected visit to give him an ultimatum in regard to his relationship with Ariane. Convinced that Gautier is an abusive and exploitative manipulator that has caused Ariane to live a slave-like existence of perpetual fear and debasement, Olivier busts into the old man’s business office unannounced, reveals who he is, and firmly states, “This has to stop. I love Ariane. I don’t want her to be scared anymore.” After Gautier more or less mocks the idea that Ariane is afraid of him, Olivier tells him that he will be the heroine’s new and improved pimp, stating, “I have a suggestion. From now on, I take care ofher. Same way you do. But I’ll take a smaller cut. And I’ll really protect her.” At this point, Gautier seems somewhat offended and retorts, “Are you sure we both take care of women in the same manner?,” but Olivier stands firm and replies, “That’s beside the point.” Despite clearly annoying Gautier, Olivier demands 10,000 francs from the old man that he believes was stolen from Ariane. Although he protests by rhetorically asking “Do you realize who I am?” and then snidely remarking, “I find you a bit rash,” Gautier still gives Olivier the money.

Seeming to have subconsciously realized that he has made a serious mistake that will most likely jeopardize his relationship, Olivier immediately gets violently drunk and roams around public until the morning as if he is afraid of going back to Ariane. In a symbolic scene where he reveals his identification with slaughtered horses and, in turn, sense of victim-hood, Olivier pays an early morning visit to an abattoir and then subsequently buys three horse steaks that he eats in an almost ritualistic fashion as if he is attempting to consume the brutalization and victimization of the dead animals. Indeed, despite his prole style alpha-male talents when it comes to kicking ass and taking names, Olivier now feels like a slave and acts accordingly in a strangely masochistic fashion as a virtual ‘kept man’ that is dependent on a dame that seems to value her degenerate job more than him. Clearly empathizing with the brutally slaughtered horses, Olivier seems to feel like a helpless victim and a hapless cog in a metaphysical machine of assembly-line murder. In what ultimately becomes a pathetic self-fulfilling prophecy, Olivier almost seems to have paid Gautier a rather rude visit in a subconscious attempt to completely sabotage his relationship, or so the viewer inevitably assumes. 

 When Ariane gets an early morning call from Gautier that concludes with her begging for mercy to the old fart on the other line, it becomes obvious that Olivier made a serious mistake when he paid a visit to the old aristocratic pimp. Indeed, after getting off the phone, Ariane gives Olivier a literal rude awakening by throwing clothes at him while he is asleep and bitchily yelling, “You’re leaving. I don’t want to see you anymore. Pack your things, get dressed, and get out. Understand?” Of course, Ariane does not stop there, as she begins shaking Olivier and screaming in his face like a bipolar bitch on the rag, “You idiot! How could you have done that, imbecile? You had to find out for yourself! Wasn’t our relationship more important? More important than satisfying your curiosity? What, are you a cop?” Naturally, like any normal angry woman, Ariane cravenly attempts to wound Olivier’s pride by bragging about how great Gautier is and stating, “He loves me enough to let me live the way I want.” Not content with merely emotionally abusing her lover, Ariane also insanely headbutts Olivier, though she is ultimately the one that is left most injured with a badly bloodied face.  Always the consummate gentleman, Olivier absurdly shows concern for Ariane as a result of the injury she sustains after she headbutts him.  Of course, physical injuries are of little concern to both characters as they are both badly internally wounded.

When Olivier finally manages to flee the apartment after being bombarded with a quite venomous verbal assault that might have completely spiritually castrated a weaker man, Ariane also begins to cry, thus leaving her with a somewhat aesthetically displeasing combination of blood, sweat, and tears on her face. As the viewer assumes, Ariane’s nasty behavior was at least partially an act that was meant to scare Olivier away as it is apparent that Gautier demanded that the male protagonist be kicked out of the apartment. Despite being treated as an emotional punching bag, Olivier is not the kind of guy that is going to accept to defeat when loved is involved, so he immediately goes to his local bank, completely empties his bank account, and then puts the cash inside an envelope that reads, “I love you.”  Unfortunately, when Olivier gets back to Ariane’s apartment, he discovers that his beloved is gone and that a couple of hired goons are moving her personal belongs out of the place. As he quite nicely explains to them himself, Olivier does not want to beat the shit out of the goons, but they refuse to tell him where Ariane located is so he beats the shit out of both of them, including an erratic knife-wielding pansy. 

 After learning that Ariane is located at a remote wooded chateau in the middle of the country, Oliver puts on a fancy suit that his beloved once bought for him but he did not like and takes a long journey deep into the frog hinterland with his moped. Upon arriving at the chateau, Olivier discovers Ariane, Gautier, and their assumed mutual son standing in the yard, thus he quickly decides to drop the “I love you” envelope full of money into the mailbox and leave immediately.  Considering that Ariane is absurdly dressed like a proper bourgeois housewife and now seems to even have a traditional nuclear family, Olivier naturally assumes their relationship is over, but thankfully he underestimates the unpredictability of his ladlylove.  Luckily, Ariane sees Olivier and decides to follow him in her fancy convertible. Without even thinking twice, Olivier pulls over upon seeing Ariane and then gets inside her car so they can commence an extra special session of car coitus. Indeed, in a rather symbolic scene that reveals that they have finally found a healthy medium in regard to their relationship, the two simultaneously drive while fucking, with Ariane sitting on Olivier’s cock and controlling the steering wheel while her lover manages the gas pedal. Not surprisingly, not only are the two dangerous lovers in complete ecstasy, but they also manage to get in a car wreck while they are on the brink of orgasm in a scenario that predates David Cronenberg’s classic symphorophiliac J.G Ballard adaptation Crash (1996). Thankfully, the two leave the accident fairly unscathed and even laugh upon exiting the wreckage in a final scene that really underscores the majesty of their mad love.  Indeed, while Ariane may be a literal whore, it seems that she has finally chosen poor prole Olivier over aristocratic sugar daddy Gautier.

 A relatively unclassifiable arthouse flick that features what undoubtedly has to be one of the most strangely endearingly idiosyncratic yet surprisingly believable love affairs in cinema history, Maîtresse is, in many ways, the film that Bernardo Bertolucci’s Last Tango in Paris (1972) attempted to be in terms of depicting both the pleasures and perils of a sadomasochistic romance between two opposites in frogland. Undoubtedly the most brilliant thing about the film is that, unlike Bertolucci’s somewhat overrated flick, the love story completely eclipses the scenes of ‘authentic’ S&M torture in terms of sheer potency and memorability, thus underscoring auteur Barbet Schroeder’s somewhat overlooked knack for nuance as a filmmaker (somewhat not surprisingly, the auteur would eventually marry his longtime leading lady Bulle Ogier). Of course, one also cannot forget to mention that the film features one of the most striking, singular, and unforgettable heroines of cinema history as a woman that manages to be neither a completely morally pristine female protagonist or evil scheming femme fatale, but instead a sort of all-too-hopelessly-human emotional cripple that is as cold as ice yet also somehow manages to bleed a sort a perpetual internal woundedness that is barely disguised by her carefully constructed glacial persona. Despite his flagrant boorish and inability to understand the sort of mind that enjoys S&M torture sessions, the film’s male protagonist is still able to see his lover for who she really is without being repelled by her, hence the singular charm of their romance. By eventually being able to accept one another in the end despite their mutual glaring personal flaws, the playfully perverse protagonists reveal what true love is all about.  Instead of depicting an idiotically idealistic storybook version of love, Maîtresse reveals in a fairly unconventional fashion that love requires mutual sacrifice and commitment and that love can indeed conquer all if the right variables (and pheromones) come into play.  In a weak and pathetic age where couples are so quick to break up or divorce when even the mildest discomfort comes into play, Schroeder's S&M flick is a strangely moral film that is certainly more important now than when it was first released over four decades ago.

 I must confess that Maîtresse probably left a deeper and more personal yet bittersweet impression of me than the average viewer, namely because I felt like I already knew the heroine, or at least some dominant aspect of her, all too well. Indeed, I could certainly identify with protagonist Olivier when it came to his pain and anxiety in regard to the emotionally impenetrable, highly secretive, and hopelessly introverted nature of his beloved to the point where I was sincerely quite shocked by the film’s unconventional ‘happy ending.’ While it would be easy to simply write-off Ariane as a cold soulless bitch that probably diddles herself with sandpaper just so that she can feel some sort of emotion, I ultimately felt pity and the unwavering desire to protect and comfort her just like Olivier. After all, women like Ariane are not born but created via childhood emotional abuse in the form of poor male role models and/or worthless self-absorbed mothers. Indeed, as a dominatrix that refuses to live with her own adolescent son, Ariane is certainly a misandrist of sorts that fears being under the thumb of a man so it is only nature that she becomes instantly attracted to a genuinely sweet and kindhearted crook like Olivier. Undoubtedly, beneath Ariane’s icy cold exterior is a lost and scared little girl that completely lacks something emotionally that most other people take for granted. As for Olivier, he was forced against his will to become a street fighter and thief due to his lowly background despite his distaste for violence and brutality, among other things.  Of course, it ultimately takes someone with the right amount of toughness and sensitivity like Olivier to be able to handle Ariane's ‘eccentric’ emotional handicaps.

 Unquestionably, in terms of her psyche, intellect, sexual impulses, and overall character, Ariane is a virtual textbook example of the ‘prostitute type’ that tragic Austrian-Jewish philosopher Otto Weininger was describing in his magnum opus Geschlecht und Charakter (1903) aka Sex and Character in regard to the two main archetypal extremes of the so-called fairer sex. In stark contrast to the nurturing qualities of the ‘mother type’ that Weininger spoke of, Ariane is a cold and cryptic criminally-inclined cunt that is so innately unsuited for motherhood that she cannot even stomach living with her own biological son despite her active interest in his school report cards. Of course, as Weininger wrote, “Great men have always preferred women of the prostitute type,” whereas the mother type is typically dumb, childlike, less sexually adventurous, and more or less only suitable for breeding and raising children, an archetypical whore like Ariane is the kind of clever and charming cunt that you can lie naked in bed with and discuss great cinema and philosophers for hours after a great session of coital bonding.  In short, despite featuring a great preternatural romance, Maîtresse must be praised for depicting the ultimate Weiningerian woman. It seems that auteur Barbet Schroeder's intrinsic talent for psychological insight, especially in an artistic context, is genetic as he is the maternal grandson of German psychiatrist and art historian Hans Prinzhorn, who became famous for analyzing the degenerate art of mental patients (in fact, some of Prinzhorn's work was posthumously displayed at the infamous 1937 Nazi ‘Entartete Kunst’ propaganda exhibition).

 Notably, sagely frog degenerate Georges Bataille once wisely argued, “Not every woman is a potential prostitute, but prostitution is the logical consequence of the feminine attitude. In so far as she is attractive, a woman is a prey to men’s desire. Unless she refuses completely because she is determined to remain chaste, the question is at what price and under what circumstances will she yield. But if the conditions are fulfilled she always offers herself as an object. Prostitution proper only brings in a commercial element. By the care she lavishes on her toilet, by the concern she has for her beauty set off by her adornment, a woman regards herself as an object always trying to attract men’s attention. Similarly if she strips naked she reveals the object of a man’s desire, an individual and particular object to be prized.” Rather revealing, Maîtresse heroine Ariane—a literal prostitute that, somewhat paradoxically, does not exhibit the archetypal feminine pussy-peddler traits—need not advertise the carnal goods to immediately make Olivier her prey, thus revealing true sadistic love on her part when it comes to the male protagonist, as if she is devoid of normal instinctual feminine wiles and instead simply must take what she wants by literal force. As for her johns, Ariane dolls herself in less than revealing dominatrix garb and refuses to give her customers anything aside from pure and unadulterated pain and brutality of both the emotional and physical sort. Although she may be a self-professed liar that lives behind a phony persona, Ariane is ultimately more honest than most women when it comes to her hot and heavy romance with Monsieur Olivier. For those cinephiles that ever wanted to see a cold and sadistic bitch like the eponymous anti-heroine of Tony Richardson's somewhat loose Jean Genet adaptation Mademoiselle (1966) succumb to love, Schroeder's film is certainly your best bet.

Although I don't want to knock Lynch's classic film, but the romance in Maîtresse makes the sadomasochistic love affair between Jeffrey Beaumont and Dorothy Vallens in Blue Velvet (1986) seem like an absurdist male-fantasy by comparison.  Additionally, compared to Schroeder's film, which wallows in a sort of radical yet understated realism, Luis Buñuel's masterful S&M flick Belle de Jour (1967) almost seems like an emotionally fraudulent feminist fantasy.  Of course, what both Schroeder and Buñuel's films reveal is that virtually all women are plagued by indecision and are constantly torn between wanting a man that instantly can sop their panties and a sexually banal beta-provider-male that can inflate their bank accounts.  Either way, innate hypergamic instincts dictates that most women will always find something to complain about and the only place you will find real happy endings to romances is in movies, even in strange sadomasochistic arthouse ones like Maîtresse.

-Ty E

May 10, 2017

Baba Yaga

For the most part, I loathe comic book film adaptations and the sort of collective autistic escapism and delusional of grandeur that they sire, including basic bitch Hollywood liberal actor Chris Evans—a spiritual eunuch with a Jewess fetish that is probably best known for portraying the extremely gay ass Marvel Comics character Captain America—thinking that he is somehow a righteous superhero in real-life and passive-aggressively threatening to beat up Identity Evropa founder Nathan Damigo (who righteously punched some violent female commie antifa-thug-cum-porn-star that has been fittingly nicknamed ‘Moldylocks’). Indeed, there are few things I find more repugnant than seeing some obscenely overweight middle-aged neckbeard in public sporting some superhero shirt that would normally be worn by a 7-year-old kid. Needless to say, it should be no surprise that some of my favorite cinematic comic adaptations are films that I did not realize were comic adaptations the first time I watched them. For example, Italian horror maestro Michele Soavi’s darkly comedic and even merrily misanthropic zombie flick Dellamorte Dellamore (1994) aka Cemetery Man—a film based on a novel by the author Tiziano Sclavi’s own Dylan Dog horror comic (which inspired the horrendous celluloid turd Dylan Dog: Dead of Night (2011))—is a personal favorite and a film that is just too cool, sexy, and non-autistic to seem like it was made appeal to virginal fanboys that fap to Harley Quinn fan art.

Decades before Soavi, another Italian auteur named Corrado Farina, who had next to nil success during his short-lived career as a feature filmmaker, created what is indubitably one of the most erotically oneiric and visually arresting comic adaptations ever made. Based on Italian architect turned comic artist Guido Crepax’s comic Valentina—a very ‘cinematic’ comic strip series of the erotically-charged counterculture orientated sort that features an eponymous heroine inspired by iconic silent film actress Louise Brooks—Farina’s second and final feature Baba Yaga (1973) aka The Devil Witch aka Baba Yaga, Devil Witch aka Black Magic aka Kiss Me Kill Me is undoubtedly one of the great forgotten Italian horror films of the 1970s as a fairly idiosyncratic flick that totally transcends its mostly formulaic genre. The Guido answer to Belgian auteur Harry Kümel’s carpet-muncher cult classic Daughters of Darkness (1971) in terms of atmospheric lesbo horror between a powerful yet evil older woman and a younger and sexually vulnerable chick, Farina’s flick is loaded with a number of unforgettable visual orgasms. Indeed, a work of rather refined aesthetic decadence, Baba Yaga—a film that is indubitably too artsy fartsy and non-linear for gorehounds and too trashy and politically correct for anally retentive arthouse fags—is a virtual Gothic counterculture fashion show in cinematic form that is equal doses heaven and hell in terms of sheer imagery and atmosphere. While based on the comics of a so-called ‘revolutionary’ artiste that was heavily influenced by the leftist zeitgeist of the late-1960s, the film is also flagrantly ‘fascist chic’ and features hot chicks in SS and Prussian uniforms. Indeed, forget the pseudo-blonde she-bitches with retarded fake kraut accents in Ilsa: She Wolf of the SS (1975) and related nauseatingly insipid Nazisploitation trash, the Sapphic SS sluts in Farina's flick have a certain demonic diva elegance that transcends hokey historical clichés. 

 Long before he directed his underrated first feature Hanno cambiato faccia (1971) aka They Have Changed Their Face (1971)—an allegorical vampire flick featuring corporate bloodsuckers that pays tribute to the great cinematic masterworks of German Expressionism (e.g. the lead vampire’s name is ‘Giovanni Nosferatu’)—Farina refined his filmmaking craft by directing tons of commercials and documentary shorts. In fact, he once directed an insightful short doc entitled Freud a fumetti (1970) about comic artist and Baba Yaga source writer Guido Crepax. Undoubtedly, Farina’s short but sweet 10-minute doc makes a great primer for his feature as it reveals Crepax’s strong cinematic influences and how his comic work is highly suitable for filmic adaptation. In fact, erotica maestro Tinto Brass was so impressed with Crepax’s work that he hired him to create storyboards for his early candy-colored giallo Col cuore in gola (1967) aka Deadly Sweet aka I Am What I Am. Notably, Crepax was so obsessed with cinema and cinema history that he not only included iconic cinematic figures ranging from Erich von Stroheim to Louise Brookes to Ingmar Bergman to Boris Karloff in his work, but he also adapted a scene from Sergei Eisenstein’s classic anti-Teuton war epic Alexander Nevsky (1938) in comic form in a intricate manner that closely mimics the musical rhythm of the film in terms of how he laid out of the images. Needless to say, like Crepax’s comics, Baba Yaga features a sort of refined cinephilia that pays tribute to the darker side of classic cinema. Indeed, the film references everything from German master auteur F.W. Murnau’s lost flick Der Januskopf (1920)—an unofficial adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde—to Jean-Luc Godard’s classic feature Pierrot le Fou (1965). Thankfully, the film does not feature the sort of masturbatory and carelessly contrived postmodern cinephilia that is typical of someone like Tarantino.  For example, the heroine and her beau go to a screening of German Expressionist classic Der Golem, wie er in die Welt kam (1920) aka The Golem: How He Came into the World directed by Carl Boese and Paul Wegener, only for said characters to later encounter a sort of non-Judaic neo-Golem in the form of a porcelain baby doll in bondage that comes to life as a result of a powerful witch that uses the object to kill and torture her enemies.  Thankfully, the killer doll in Farina's film is more sensually sinister than the evil ventriloquist dummy featured in the old school British horror flick Devil Doll (1964) directed by Lindsay Shonteff.

 As a general rule, I find it nearly impossible to take comic books nerds, especially adult ones, seriously, yet auteur Farina seems to have fairly good reasoning for obsessing over the cultivated doodling of comic maestro Crepax. Indeed, to Farina, Crepax created an entire an entire elaborate metapolitical Weltanschauung that not only transcended the comic medium, but also aesthetics and politics, or as the filmmaker articulated in the Blue Underground featurette Farina & Valentina, “It was revolutionary in terms of content, because it dealt with mysteries or magic or esoteric themes. The stories were ever more esoteric, bizarre and difficult to decode. But more than anything, it was linguistically revolutionary. By this, I mean that Crepax brought to the language of the comic strip an amazing breath of innovation comparable to what Jean-Luc Godard had done a few years previously for the cinema.” For better or worse, Baba Yaga is certainly a metapolitically revolutionary work that is very much of its rather debauched time, but thankfully it is also a fetishistically phantasmagoric fever dream featuring Sapphic SS sluts and statuesque beauties with shapely jumbo jugs that features the nice little novelty of incessantly blurring the line between risqué reality and fucked fantasy.  In that sense, the film deserves to be favorably compared to frog filmmaker Roger Vadim's underrated quasi-Cocteau-esque lesbo Gothic horror flick Et mourir de plaisir (1960) aka Blood and Roses.

 About a decade ago or so, I used to think archetypal flapper Louise Brookes was fairly hot despite her proto-clithopper haircut and fairly average and not-so-curvy body, but then I realized she was a less than dainty dyke and her overall dykeness became too painfully obvious to me to the point where I found her more annoying than arousing. Undoubtedly, Farina puts Brookes’ lily-licker legacy to great use in Baba Yaga, which features a Brookes-esque heroine named Valentina Rosselli (French actress Isabelle De Funès in her most famous acting role)—a fashion photographer that likes taking photos of half-naked woman and black-on-white miscegenation—that comes under the spell of a sinisterly Sapphic eponymous blonde witch with savagely sadistic tendencies. Valentina is a somewhat uptight bitch that not only regularly denies pussy to her hack filmmaker boyfriend Arno Treves (George Eastman of the nasty celluloid turd Antropophagus (1980) directed by Joe D'Amato), but also says a lot of pretentious bullshit to him, including trashing his hero Godard as indicated by her snidely expressed remark, “Your guru hasn’t done anything of merit since PIERROT LE FOU. I’d much rather see Laurel and Hardy. You can expect a laugh.” Indeed, it is only when the heroine comes into contact with a literal witch that kills her hot female friends that she realizes the importance of a good man and seems to get over her rather dubious donut-bumper phase.  Featuring Carroll Baker of Baby Doll (1956) in an underrated role as a mischievous MILF that attempts to use both her well preserved body (notably, Baker actually convinced auteur Farina to do a full-frontal nude scene for the film, though it was cut when it was originally released due to censors) and evil magic powers to enslave a girl that seems to have forgotten that she has more of an innate thirst for cock than cunt, Baba Yaga is—whether intentional or not—a cautionary tale about the perils of dykedom and how a woman always make for a sad and sorry replacement when it comes to a man's job.

 In what ultimately proves to be her first big mistake, Valentina—a proud armchair ‘revolutionary’ that is not beneath calling her best friends ‘fascists’ if they dare to not tow the pinko party line—expresses her shallow feminist independence by denying her beau Arno poontang and then insisting that she walk home by herself after a party. Indeed, after bitchily saying to Arno, “Listen to me. I don’t feel like making love with you. Not tonight. Ciao,” and parting ways with a man that seems to genuinely love and adore her, Valentina happens upon a lone German Shepherd in the street with a strange occult symbol inscribed on its fur. After expressing more affection to the dog than her boyfriend, Valentina gets somewhat of a shock when a fancy black car appears out of nowhere and nearly plows down both her and the mysterious canine. Before the heroine knows it, a beauteous yet seemingly Svengali-like middle-aged blonde emerges from the car and demands that she get inside the vehicle so that she can drive her home. Speaking in a fairly cryptic yet overtly carnal manner, the blonde immediately acts in a sexually predatory manner and states to Valentina, “It wasn’t the dog. I was driving too fast. I knew something was about to happen. Our meeting was preordained.”

While in the car, the blonde also demonstrates her sharp Sapphic aggressiveness by feeling up Valentina’s leg and then snatching a belt from her garter belt, which she promises to bring back to her the next day, even stating to the somewhat bewildered heroine with a certain sassy arrogance, “I need a personal object of yours. Be assured that I’ll return it to you tomorrow.” Rather inexplicably, the blonde knows exactly where Valentina lives and when the heroine gets out of the car, she declares to the female protagonist with the utmost self-importance, “Don’t forget my name. My name is Baba Yaga.” Not all that surprisingly, later that night Valentina has a troubling nightmare where two demonic divas in SS officers and the same German Shepherd she encountered that night escort her to a large dark pit that she is forced to strip naked in front of while an extremely cold and arrogant-looking SS man (auteur Farina) holding an evil looking kitty cat looks on. The same man will proceed to haunt Valentina in various forms, including as a policeman and Prussian officer, but she will always remain in a passive, if not slavish, position during these sadomasochistic nightmares that are clearly dictated over by Sapphic sorceress Baba Yaga. 

 Just as she previously promised on the fateful night when they first met, bodacious blonde witch Baba Yaga swings by Valentina’s swinging pad and returns her “delightful little object” (aka garter belt button), though it is ultimately just a pretense to curse the heroine’s beloved camera. Indeed, to Valentina’s great distress, her favorite camera is turned into a magical weapon that hurts anyone she takes a photo of, including her voluptuous model friend Toni (Angela Covello) and some random hippie dressed up like Jesus that she spots in public holding a poorly made “GOD IS DEAD” sign. Toni is a beauteous brunette with virtually immaculate tits and an extremely extroverted personality, but one snap from Valentina’s cursed camera immediately causes her to collapse and develop some inexplicable and completely debilitating illness that leaves her bedridden.  Probably due to all the dope and commie literature that she has consumed, Valentina does not immediately realize the pernicious power of her accursed camera until it is too late.  Meanwhile, Baba Yaga passively bides her time and allows the camera to do her work for her in the hope that Valentina will soon be her own personal slave and sexual plaything.

 Despite cursing her camera and bringing chaos to her life, Valentina unwisely decides to pay Baba Yaga at her home, which is the sort of less than humble abode that you would expected from a carpet-munching witch with refined tastes. Indeed, Ms. Yaga lives in a large and somewhat dilapidated chateau of sorts that has, among other things, a seemingly bottomless pit in the living room and a wealth of ancient and mostly sinister seeming exotic trinkets. Under the pretense of taking photographs, Valentina snoops around the upstairs of the house where she finds a creepy vintage baby doll with a rather revealing bondage outfit. Somewhat unexpectedly, Valentina becomes so aroused upon finding one of Yaga’s black leather gloves that she opts to masturbate with it while lying on a seemingly rather uncomfortable steel bed without a mattress. While masturbating, Valentina reveals her sickly masochistic side by fantasizing about a scorpion attacking her nipple and a crow pecking at her bushy pussy. Rather predictably, Yaga walks in on Valentina while she is diddling herself, though the heroine tries to play it off by complaining that she is suffering from a “dizzy spell.” Clearly convinced that she has the heroine under her spell in both the literal and figurative sense, Yaga demands that Valentina take home the S&M baby doll, which is named ‘Annette,’ though the dopey heroine becomes somewhat concerned when the witch declares, “She will protect you from any harm.” Unbeknownst to Valentina, the doll is demonic and deadly and can take human form (notably, the rather delectable Slavic-blooded Italian actress Ely Galleani portrays the doll in human form). 

 While an ‘anti-bourgeois bourgeois’ bitch that makes nonsensical statements about “revolution” despite living in a fancy and elegantly decorated apartment that she clearly could not afford on a meager prole's budget, Valentina is not beneath making racially-charged jokes to goofy negroes. Indeed, when her friend Romina (Daniela Balzaretti) and an unintentionally humorously effete negro come to her flat to take part in a degenerate interracial photo shot, Valentina reveals she might be slightly counterrevolutionary when she states to the ambiguously gay colored gentleman, “Let me see some nice primitive drive, ok? Like your ancestors. You know, the ones in the jungle that ate up the missionaries.” A sort of walking and talking cliché, the black boy is what one might describe as a ‘magical negro’ as he can somehow sense that the porcelain doll Annette is evil and thus he wisely refuses to touch it. Unfortunately, Romina is not so wise and soon finds herself mysteriously pricked by the doll’s antique hair pin, which leads to her becoming immediately sick and eventually dying as a result of a mysterious illness. As a result of suffering a nightmare where she is dressed as a Prussian soldier and executes a completely unclad Romina on a beach while Yaga (as well auteur Farina sporting Prussian officer regalia, including a monocle and iron cross) looks on, Val feels extremely guilty about her beauteous model friend’s rather dubious death. Needless to say, Yaga is willing to use her magical powers to kill anyone so long as it gets her what she wants, namely Val as a sexual slave and protégé. 

Unlike the heroine, Valentina’s boyfriend Arno is a fairly unpretentious and no bullshit kind of guy that has no problem admitting that he is a “whore” that directs worthless TV commercials instead of creating highly personal auteur pieces (although just speculation, I think that Arno is a sort of stand-in for director Farina, who spent a good portion of his life directing TV adverts). Indeed, when Valentina goes to visit Arno on a film set, he is directing a a pleasantly politically incorrect TV commercial where a guido gangster turns a negro crook into a small human-shaped mound of black debris after throwing white laundry detergent on him. In that sense, Arno is just as much of an illusionist as Baba Yaga, albeit not as erotically magnetic when it comes to turning Valentina on. Naturally, it is Arno that must save Valentina from both her aberrosexual compulsions and Baba Yaga’s sinisterly Sapphic metaphysical grip. While Arno does not initially believe his loony lover’s claims in regard to Yaga being an evil dyke witch with magical powers that can kill, he does eventually realize something erotically evil is a work when he sees photographs of Annette the doll in human form attacking belated model Romina.  Rather conveniently, Valentina and Arno's sexual relationship improves just as Yaga begins to catch the heroine in her malefic metaphysical grip.

 When dyke dominatrix doll Annette takes on human form, seductively kisses the heroine on the lips in a teasing fashion, and then walks out of her flat with her favorite camera, Valentina naturally senselessly decides to follow her back to Baba Yaga’s ominous chateau like a sex-starved Sapphic somnambulist that is looking to engage in some hardcore lesbo scissoring. Of course, Annette has merely lured Val to the old hot hag’s house so that Yaga can imprison her there forever, or so she tries. Indeed, while Yaga initially treats Val in a wickedly sweet and charming fashion to somewhat camouflage her true malevolent motivations, the witch now feels fully confidant to take complete ownership over the airheaded heroine. Indeed, although Yaga initially attempts to seduce her by completely disrobing and sensually declaring while proudly exhibiting her completely stark-naked body, “You belong to me, Valentina, so don’t you forget it. I have already demonstrated I can do with you as I like,” Val coldly rejects the seduction and bitches like a frigid virginal feminist on the rag, “NO! I couldn’t care less about powers and riches and your cosmic secrets. And don’t try to tell me who to make love with! Because no man has ever done that, let alone a woman.” Naturally, since Val refuses to submit willingly, Yaga opts for somewhat harsher methods and, with the help of slavish sex doll Annette, the wanton witch strips, ties up, and brutally whips Valentina. Needless to say, passive-aggressive bitch Val—a girl that is more bark than bite—is no match for the seasoned sorceress and her deadly delectable doll, so naturally it ultimately takes a man to get the job done right. Indeed, somehow Arno realizes that Val is at Yaga’s house and that she is in serious danger, so he immediately takes action and comes to her rescue. With very little effort, Arno smashes Annette the doll into pieces, though it is ultimately Val that literally takes down Yaga by somewhat unintentionally causing her to fall down the bottomless pit in her darkly lit living room. In a somewhat uneven twist ending, cops show up at the house immediately after Yaga is dispatched and reveal that the building has been abandoned for some time. In fact, even the bottomless pit is no longer bottomless. Either way, it seems Valentina has been literally scared straight in regard to Sapphic sexuality and thus will devote herself to dedicated dick Arno. 

 While surely one of the more neglected Italian horror films of the 1970s, I doubt anyone would dare to describe Baba Yaga as an immaculate masterpiece, including the film’s auteur Corrado Farina. In fact, in an interview featurette entitled Farina & Valentina, Farina laments on his failure to fully realize his artistic vision and pay greater tribute to Crepax’s source comic, stating with obvious regret, “My idea, which unfortunately was only realized in small part, was to make a comic-inspired film using Crepax’s strip as a starting point, which in turn used film as a starting point. I wanted to somehow come full circle. My idea was only partially realized in a few sequences. Namely those in which I used overexposed photographs in an attempt to approximate the graphics in Crepax’s comic strips. I also used a layout similar to the way Crepax laid his panels out on the page. Those sequences do try to capture the language used in the comics, but only two or three sequences remain in the film. In the rest of the film, I was unable to achieve that rhythm and composition, that comic flavor that I was hoping for.” Notably, during the same interview, Farina does a fairly admirable job summing up the film’s legacy and its importance in the context of Italian cinema history, remarking, “Currently, I have made only two feature films: THEY HAVE CHANGED THEIR FACE and BABA YAGA. But it’s interesting that after 30 years . . . these two films are enjoying a moment of popularity that exceeds by far the fame they enjoyed when they came out. In any case, I think that their so-called ‘second youth’ is due to the very fact that they are genre films of a very . . . if you’ll excuse the pun . . . a very particular genre. They go beyond pure and simple horror. They’ve become a testament . . . more so THEY HAVE CHANGED THEIR FACE, but also BABA YAGA in some ways . . . to a specific historical and cultural time, which is the ‘70s in Italy.” Indeed, Farina may have only directed two films, but they are fairly singular auteurist works that place the filmmaker alongside Giulio Questi (La morte ha fatto l'uovo aka Death Laid an Egg, Arcana) and Alberto Cavallone (Spell – Dolce mattatoio aka Man, Woman & Beast, Blue Movie) in terms of being an unsung maestro of genre-bending Guido quasi-avant-garde horror. 

 As someone that has probably had more experience with lipstick bisexuals and lesbians than most men, I am oftentimes annoyed by the shallow and superficial, if not downright phony, portrayal of Sapphic psychos, deranged dykes, and menacing carpet-munching witch bitches in horror cinema. While I can certainly appreciate the cold and callous portrayal of crypto-dyke cunt Mrs. Danvers in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1940 adaptation of English bisexual novelist Daphne du Maurier’s classic Gothic romance Rebecca, Jesús Franco certainly did not demonstrate any profound understanding of the psychology of unhinged lily-lickers in his many (pseudo)lesbianic sexploitation flicks. Although directed by a seemingly rampantly heterosexual man and starring similarly sexually sane women, Baba Yaga somehow has a surprisingly authentic Sapphic essence. Additionally, the film manages to underscore the sadomasochistic dynamic of dyke behavior without seeming too stupid or exploitative. Indeed, although somewhat aesthetically different cinematic works, Farina’s film somewhat reminded me of the quasi-expressionistic avant-garde S&M erotic flick Mano destra (1986) directed by and starring Swiss dyke dominatrix Cleo Übelmann.  Additionally, I also would not be surprised if British auteur Peter Strickland watched Farina’s film in preparation for his latest dark dyke romance The Duke of Burgundy (2014). On the other hand, Baba Yaga certainly never quite reaches the esoteric Sappho sadomasochism of a Ulrike Ottinger film like Freak Orlando (1981). While the film might be arousing to some lesbos of both the sadistic and masochistic sort, it is, quite thankfully, not exactly LGBT-friendly as a provocative cinematic work where a somewhat emotionally erratic and surely politically retarded girl must be saved from literally evil lesbians by her tall, dark, and handsome boyfriend.

Undoubted, Baba Yaga is a film where, not unlike various works of German Expressionism and Fernando Di Leo's bizarrely foreboding giallo La bestia uccide a sangue freddo (1971) aka Slaughter Hotel, the form dictates the content and the story unravels like a stream-of-conscious nightmare. In short, Farina's flick is a wild and wanton ride where the viewer has the distinguished opportunity to get lost in a delectable deluge of amorous aesthetic decadence where nothing is as it seems. I must confess that Baba Yaga is one of the few films I can think of where I found myself totally willing to overlook its more glaring flaws dues to my shameless obsession with its entrancingly dreamy imagery and overall sexy style. Indeed, the film is like a Alain Robbe-Grillet flick that been been directed by a mere mortal as opposed to a sadistic scatter-brained postmodern-intelligent-demigod. Needless to say, Baba Yaga is also one of the oh-so few cinematic comic book adaptations that you can show to a prospective lover without seeming like an autistic man-child and/or virginal omega male.  In fact, I sense the film would be more appealing to gals than guys due to its rather refined depiction of exquisite female flesh, fashionable wardrobes, and overall extremely feminine essence, though both genders were surely find something to be aroused by.  After all, there exists no other film with such a eerily erotic baby doll in bondage gear and a fascist chic aesthetic, not to mention the fact that Baba Yaga features the titular blonde bombshell star of Baby Doll in one of the most strangely sexy MILF roles in cinema history.

-Ty E