Judge Brett Cullum is well acquainted with female misbehavior. Why, just the other day he saw a woman—with exposed ankles, nonetheless—jaywalking as she ripped the warning label off of her new pillow. Scandalous!
Naughty and nasty women!
Female Misbehavior is a collection of four short films and a longer feature by celebrated lesbian filmmaker Monika Treut (Gendernauts). The collection provides a look at sexual pioneers, women who live outspoken and sexual lives. You won't find wilting flowers or traditional "nice" girls. There are four chapters that were exhibited theatrically to make up the Female Misbehavior feature from 1992:
Bondage—A 1983 look at a practitioner of S&M. This grainy feature explores a woman who loves leather and nipple torture. It is languidly paced, and sets the tone for the idea of female sexual outlaws.
Annie—A discussion with Annie Sprinkle, who marries performance art and porn and reveals all too literally what's inside her. Sprinkle is amazing for how innocently she exploits herself, and turns her "big tits" and cervix into silly fun instead of sleazy objects of lust. She speaks and shows things matter of factly, and the segment is far less scandalous than it is giggly good natured humor.
Dr. Paglia—Camille Paglia talks at 200 mph about her sexual frustrations and dismissal of traditional feminism. It is easily the most compelling segment of the DVD, and provides viewers with a portrait of one of the most controversial figures in academia.
Max—A sweet loving look at a transsexual making the journey from female to male.
In addition to what was seen in art houses in the early '90s, the DVD adds an eighty minute feature:
Didn't do it for Love—An exploration of Eva Norvind, who was the Marilyn Monroe of Mexico in the '60s, as well as NYC's leading dominatrix in the late '80s. She's a fascinating figure whose story is incredibly well explored in this straightforward work.
Taken as a whole, Female Misbehavior is an entertaining look at radical feminism. Treut and her subjects are willing to transcend far beyond traditional roles, and even liberals will find the stances taken shocking. Nobody apologizes for what they are doing, and each woman has a power far removed from men and other women. Is this creating a third sex? Dr. Paglia even comments she feels she is not a woman and not a man, but rather a being who switches sex every couple of weeks. The ideas of feminine identity are explored, and even more telling the basic concept of who we are is challenged. This is a theme that colors Treut's films, and makes them intensely intriguing. Yet the real achievement is how entertaining these interviews and documentaries are. Nothing is given a heavy tone, and each subject exhibits a playfulness that keeps the feature moving at a brisk pace. You can't help but fall in love with each woman for being true to herself and having an adventurous sense of humor.
First Run Features delivers these documentaries on a fullscreen single disc. Extra features include a candid interview with Monika Treut, which extends to her whole career instead of a simple discussion of Female Misbehavior. There is also a photo gallery for the Eva Norvind feature, as well as text biographies for the director and Eva. The transfers vary wildly with the quality of the films with Bondage looking the most primitive. The sound is an uncomplex stereo track which suits the dialogue heavy sequences. It's a brave release, and reinforces First Run's commitment to being a truly alternative distributor of esoteric and well-made films.
Female Misbehavior is the perfect companion piece for The L Word; it will interest anyone who has studied traditional feminism. In contrast, Female Misbehavior is an entertaining journey that should reach a universal audience simply because it offers an exploration of what makes us who we are. As grandiose as all that sounds, the truth is you will be entertained and shocked in equal doses. At the end of the day, provocation, intellectual stimulation, and humor make Female Misbehavior a solid work that makes it worth seeking out. Everyone loves a bad girl, and now we finally get to see why.
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