Canadian filmmaker Bruce LaBruce is known for mixing pornogrpahic elements in with more convential cinematic techniques, which I did not know before watching The Misandrists. It might not have improved my enjoyment of the film, but it certainly would have helped set my expectations. And not just for the amount and kind of explicit content LaBruce includes in the film. Pornography has a reputation for stilted acting that feels amateurish, and The Misandrists has that in spades. With a few changes, The Misandrists could be a fun, schlocky exploitation film. However, given the odd way the film treats gender, I’m not sure this would be possible in today’s environment.
The film centers on a cell of the Female Liberation Army (FLA) in Ger(wo)many led by Big Mother (Susanne Sachße). Each of the girls in the cell dress in schoolgirl uniforms, practice free lesbian love, and train for the forthcoming revolution. Some of the girls are studying gay male pornography, as Big Mother wants to use pornography to subvert the homosexual capitalist patriarchy. All of that changes when two of the girls secretly take in a male leftist radical (Til Schindler).
Most of the film concerns the dynamics of the girls, and the things that threaten to tear the FLA cell apart. There are potentially spies in their midst, and one of the girls is revealed to have male genitalia. The film’s characters openly debate whether or not she should be allowed to be in their cause, but with the performances and tone, it is hard to tell if this is meant to be satirical or not. This disconnect actually captures well the entire film, as being directed by a man, it is difficult to tell if it is spoofing hardcore feminists or the men who fear them. It falls in an uncanny valley between outright exploitation–something to be enjoyed ironically given the male gaze, queer or otherwise–or as a broad satire. But the film itself isn’t fun enough to warrant another viewing to tease that out.
Author: Ryan Silberstein
Ryan spends his days at a company named one of the best to work for in the Philadelphia area, and his nights
as a mysterious caped vigilante saving his city from the disease that is crime watching movies. He lives on a diet consisting of film, comic books, experimental beer, black coffee, and those big metal historical markers around town. Follow him on Twitter and Letterboxd.