Nov 5, 2012

Madame X: An Absolute Ruler



Admittedly, pirates have never really floated my boat and I certainly cannot think of films as extravagantly aesthetically repellant as the Pirates of the Caribbean series and Spielberg’s quasi-pederastic work Hook (1991) for such works could only appeal to small children and buggering butt-pirates. Needless to say, Johnny Depp as proto-hippie slime-bag Captain Jack Sparrow makes for a rather pathetic pirate Lord of the Seven Seas and Dustin Hoffman makes for an even worse pirate than he does as a drag queen à la Tootsie (1982). That being said, I never would have thought that my favorite seafaring freebooter flick would inevitably turnout to be that of the campy fantasy lesbian sort, but then again I would have never expected anything of the sort to exist in the first place. Co-directed by aberrant Aryanness auteur Ulrike Ottinger (Freak Orlando, Taiga) and her then-girlfriend Tabea Blumenschein (Zagarbata) – the statuesque stoic Sapphic punk goddess that would play an imperative part in the creation of her ladylove’s most prolific works, including the cross-genre arthouse epics Ticket of No Return (1979) and Dorian Gray in the Mirror of the Yellow Press (1984) – Madame X – Eine absolute Herrscherin (1978) aka Madame X: An Absolute Ruler is not only one of the most ideally and intensely idiosyncratic buccaneer flicks ever made, but it is also the lesbian answer to the male action-fantasy film, albeit of a more absurdist, avant-garde persuasion. Unlike your typical lesbian/feminist film whatever genre of subgenre it may be in, Madame X: An Absolute Ruler is not a pirate-themed pity party of the decisively slave-morality-driven dreadful and regretful sort, but a wonderfully wayward wild woman wonder where the will to power and pleasure is the guiding philosophy. Lacking in petty sentimentalism, cliché political messages, and glorification of the weak and meek but instead the criminally rich and aesthetically wondrous, Madame X: An Absolute Ruler is a delightfully deranging Dionysian comedy of sorts that makes for the next best thing to a full-fledged lesbian fantasy fascism flick. Suffice to say, Madame X: An Absolute Ruler does for female swashbuckling filibusters what Kenneth Anger’s Scorpio Rising (1964) did for motorcycle and fetishistically fascistic leather-fags.



During the beginning of Madame X: An Absolute Ruler, a number of diverse but equally unsatisfied women receive hidden telegraphic messages in everything from newspapers to a box of Brillo pads (steel wool scouring pads used for cleaning dishes) to the pocket of an institutionalized mental patient suffering from ‘disturbed narcissistic personality’ offering the lonely ladies the following: To all women – stop – offer world – stop – full of gold – stop – love – stop – adventure – stop – at sea – stop – call Chinese Orlando – stop! The characters include everything from bored, sexually-repressed housewives to overly-intellectualized psychiatrists with physical appearances as diversified as raving beauties to gawky dyke pilots with bad haircuts, but they are united by their overwhelming dissatisfaction with their lives and professional/gender roles. To join the beauteous yet barbaric Madame X (Tabea Blumenschein) on her dilapidated ship Chinese Orlando, they must sacrifice their previous lives which none of them think twice about doing, but none of them are prepared for enduring the dictatorship of the determinedly dick-less where totalitarian tough love and topless tits reign supreme. Upon first joining Madame X on the ship as corsair crewmembers, the conspicuously cute but callous captain – using the help of a vocal and automatic figurehead, an exact replica of Madame X (also played by Blumenschein), assembled with the utmost care by a Numidian and witch doctor of great talent – displays her “absolute authority and power” via her doppelganger at the prow of the ship reciting: “Gold. Love. Adventure.” Indeed, Madame X – a muted and multipotent miss of the most magnificent mystique, and material and metaphysical magnetism – makes good on her three promises, but not without a little bit of slapstick and swashbuckling misery, heartbreak, and murder thrown in for good measure. In a backstory early on in the film, it is revealed that Madame X initially decided to give “her soul to the devil and Satanic sea arts” after her prized beauty Orlando was killed after being engulfed in the toxic tentacles of a rare and deadly jellyfish, which subsequently resulted in the loss of the Captain’s right-hand, hence her prosthetic bladed-hand. Miss X eventually became the cruelest pirate Führer of the Far Eastern sea, thus he has to be most stern and even unfair with his new novice buccaneers. Naturally, Madame X is extra hard on a flaming faggot fairy who joins the crew as a groveling man-maid after they find him floating in the sea by his lonesome, but at least he has the opportunity to admire the charming yet sometimes cantankerous Captain’s nude body, including her erotic blonde bosom hair. As far as obtaining glorious gold is concerned, Madame X and her eclectic collection of underlings happen upon a boat full of booty-full, banal, bourgeois types (one of which is played by Peggy von Schnottgenberg aka Frank Ripploh; director of Taxi zum Klo) whom they glamour and titillate – the sort of people that incessantly and robotically repeat small talk clichés like “well, how about that?” and “What do ya know?” – and subsequently ransack at night and execute in a most Fellini-esque fashion. Naturally, Madame X: An Absolute Ruler – probably the only film where someone rides the plank in a wheelchair – is not your slap-happy alcoholic grandpappy's sort of pirate film.



As the Chinese Orlando’s in-boat psychiatrist states in a most tongue-in-cheek manner: “The age-old oppression of woman which had consolidated the habits of passivity and dependence in their character structure, made them docile tools in the hands of Madame X, a charismatic personality eaten up with narcissism and whose lust for power grew with the quasi-masochistic submission of the women beyond all bounds.” Of course, whether victims of Madame X’s megalomaniacal majesty or not, breast-flaunting buccaneers of Madame X: An Absolute Ruler certainly have a lovely, if loaded, journey where the charismatic captain’s three promises of gold, love, and adventure are ceremoniously fulfilled. Aside from the gold, Ulrike Ottinger makes good of her character Madame X’s promises as well, which I would have never suspected from a muff-diving auteur, especially of the sometimes socio-politically-charged sort. In fact, I do not think it would be a stretch to say that not only is Ottinger the most demiurgic female German director of the post-WWII era, but also – regardless of sex – the greatest kraut master of postmodern celluloid mythmaking. That being said, it is quite a shame that Ottinger's personal/artistic relationship with Tabea Blumenschein had to end, as I surely regard Madame X: An Absolute Ruler, as well as their collaborations, Ticket of No Return and Dorian Gray in the Mirror of the Yellow Press among my favorite arthouse 'fantasy' flicks, and I am not exactly a fan of Ani DiFranco or Ellen DeGenerate. Indeed, unlike Robin Williams in Hook, not all seamen are starved for sea-salty semen; rather, some are horny, unloved housewives, pompous pussy-licking psychiatrists, and sadomasochistic Orientalists of the bearded clam diving, cunning linguist persuasian. 



-Ty E

6 comments:

jervaise brooke hamster said...

Robin Williams is a pile of dog-shit.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

Johnny Depp is a pile of dog-shit.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

"Hook" was an unwatchable pile of dog-shit.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

The "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies are all unwatchable piles of dog-shit.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

'Pirate' movies are so ludicrously out-moded now, they really are yet another anachronistic and laughable relic from a by-gone era.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

Henry Jaglom is a pretentious fart (and a pile of dog-shit ! ! !).