Ulrike Ottinger  



Eccentric German artist, auteur film-maker, documentary-maker and probably a closet anthropologist. Makes playful movies exploring cultures, rituals, costumes, singing, dancing, theatrical performances, and feminism, often with a female-heavy cast and female leaders. Her documentaries and movies sometimes blend into each other (for example in 'Joan of Arc of Mongolia') as she uses fictional characters to explore minutiae of an exotic far-east culture, with eccentric humor and whimsical vignettes. Also made some purely surreal & symbolic movies. The costumes usually get top billing in her movies, and she also favors whim, playful fun, theatrics and camp over cohesive stories and characters. Reviewed until 2016.

Of Some Interest

Ticket of No Return  
Another lightly surreal experimental movie by Ottinger consisting of vignettes and a theme rather than a story. Berlin is seen through the eyes of a drunk, apathetic, well-off woman who takes a tour of the city on a 'one-way ticket'. She takes advantage of every opportunity to be served a drink and smash her glass, including sharing a drink with her taxi driver, bar hopping, grabbing a drink in the airport, and getting soused at a temporary job. She adopts a bag-lady and dresses her up in her fancy clothes so she can get drunk with her and tear up the town. She pops in and out of various social circles and groups, thus providing for a portrait of the modern frustrated but independent 'drunk woman' as well as various eccentric people and work industries of the city. Everyone she bumps into is talking statistics and studies about alcoholism, there's a ubiquitous little person and other Felliniesque freaks, she grows a surreal moustache in new social roles, and her antics grow increasingly self-destructive as she straps herself to the hood of a stunt car, or walks over a glass floor in heavy shoes.

Image of Dorian Gray in the Yellow Press, The  
This one predates The Truman Show in its concept, but is not quite as clever, focusing instead on surrealisms, wardrobe, whims and theatrics. The only thing this has in common with Dorian Gray is that the protagonist starts as a narcissist. With that out of the way, Dorian is also a real-life countess-cum-model dressed as a man, and, in the movie, is the invention of a newspaper network that lives off scandals, as part of a plot to increase their readership. They manipulate the bored playboy Dorian into a love affair and film his every move in secret, until Dorian finds out and tries to escape his manufactured reality. But most of the movie is about random theatrical performances and costumes, as if the wardrobe person took some drugs and decided to take over the movie while the director was away. A tedious opera on the beach involving some kind of goddess takes up 30 minutes of the movie, a press event features avant-garde singing and everything wrapped in newspapers, a screening room features televisions tied to pillars with barbed wire, there's a date with a feast served floating in a fountain, a gay dance between violent sailors, a retired civil servant in a bathtub, various people badly impersonating Asian exotics, fat mechanical strippers, and other delirious sets and performances. Mostly tedious gay whimsy, with some entertaining and interesting elements.

Worthless

Freak Orlando  
Cult, rare, bizarre feminist movie that looks like a low-budget Jodorowsky with PVC and urban landscapes instead of organic costumes and sets, and overflowing with feminist agenda. The goal of the movie is none other than to portray the rise of civilization as symbolic absurdities and surrealisms, with a critical feminist eye. The costumes seem to be fashioned by a gay designer on LSD and on a streak of whimsical creativity, but they evidently ran out of a budget for locations and sets, filming against a decidedly modern urban landscape, undermining the historical and abstract aspects of the show. It is light on dialogue, and half of it emphasizes theatrical, physical performances. Orlando appears in many guises and costumes in the films many sequences, including: suckling off of mother nature's breast who is growing out of the ground like a tree, building early civilization by pounding an anvil in a shopping mall surrounded by dwarves, leading a harmonious society in the forest, subjugated and tortured by the rise of Christianity with masses of wild men running around in PVC flagellating themselves while holding a phallic idol, there's a two-headed female prophet, a naked Venus is made fun of by boorish men, Orlando cross-dresses as a man and falls for siamese twins, one of which drives her to murder, and finally, she takes part in a pageant of playboy bunnies judged on by old men, until she gives up and goes back to mother nature. This entertainingly bizarre experience grows tiresome due to the constant theatrics, the lack of a complete visual experience, and the rabid, tired feminist head-clobbering.

Madame X: An Absolute Ruler  
Several archetypal unsatisfied women ripe for unleashed feminist fantasy receive telegrams promising gold, love and adventure, so they promptly form a crew on a pirate ship led by the mysterious Madame X, her spearhead hand, and her robotic leather-clad ship figurehead. These include a housewife, a punk tomboy rejected by the army, a bored rich woman, and a psychiatrist. Their repressed desires and Madame's cruelty lead them to adventure, violence and murder. At least that's the setup behind the movie. But the majority of the movie consists of women in outrageously colorful and ridiculous costumes acting out various dramatic, odd and violent scenes with each other, often involving the mechanical leather-clad pet and the captain's furry breasts, as well as with the targeted occupants of a yacht, and a hostage sailor, all while being served by a dancing flaming homosexual. If you get past the feminist manifesto recited in the beginning of the movie, tedium quickly sets in and you have two more hours left to endure.




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