Review: In The Misandrists, Bruce LaBruce takes aim at feminism and misses

THE MISANDRISTS (Bruce LaBruce). 91 minutes. Opens Friday (February 1) at the TIFF Bell Lightbox (350 King West). See listing..


THE MISANDRISTS (Bruce LaBruce). 91 minutes. Opens Friday (February 1) at the TIFF Bell Lightbox (350 King West). See listing. Rating: N

Poor Bruce LaBruce. The queer provocateur cant understand why The Misandrists was rejected by TIFF and a host of LGBTQ+ festivals last year. He insists hes been ostracized just because hes a man whos made a movie about lesbians. That is crap. His 10th feature hasnt made the cut because its a very bad movie.

Its 1999, and the Feminist Liberation Army (FLA) is plotting the revolution from its base at a one-time convent in the German countryside. Having discovered an injured male leftist revolutionary in the forest, two members, Hilde (Olivia Kundisch) and Isolde (Kita Updike), feel an affinity with his desire for change and decide to hide him in the building basement until he recovers.

Meanwhile, the female revolutionaries are being schooled in radical feminist ideology as they plan to overturn the patriarchy. Their ultimate strategy? Release a lesbian porn film guaranteed to change the world.

Dont look for any narrative drive, significant character backstories or anything like that thats not the point. The Misandrists is supposed to be a send-up of radical feminism, but it only occasionally shows any understanding of feminist thinking, and the film isnt funny for a second. The FLA is learning its cinematic craft by watching gay male porn practically bestiality, grumbles one viewer, a line typical of LaBruces humour. Another ongoing attempted joke mocks the way feminists fiddle with language: Ger(wo)many, (wo)manual, etc., as if movement radicals were still doing that kind of thing in 1999.

A radical feminist commune is not sacred ground and is definitely a rich area for parody. But LaBruce is so bent on eroticizing schoolgirls, nuns and every other porn staple that he misses the most obvious target feminists passion for collectivity. Instead of riffing off the problems with collective decision-making, LaBruce decides his revolution should be led by the scary authoritarian Big Mother (Susanne Sache), the better to celebrate a classic dominatrix.

There is fertile ground for comedy on the radical feminist landscape in the FLA’s policy of forced non-monogamy, but LaBruce doesn’t see the fun there and prefers to mine its pornographic possibilities instead.

At times, you feel like LaBruce gets it. A revolutionary will say something that rings very true a history lesson on the demise of matriarchies, for example, sounds authentic but such moments are presented for laughs. Why? Doesnt LaBruce know the difference between a tribute and trash?

And a gratuitous, unwatchable scene of torture at the hands of the FLA near the end of the film is just a pointless provocation from a filmmaker who revels in having zero boundaries.

There are signs in The Misandrists that LaBruce could have done way better. For one thing, he does know his craft and, thanks to cinematographer James Carman, The Misandrists looks great. A 10-second segment features one of the revolutionary/nuns breaking out in a Roaring 20s-style flapper dance. More of that kind of musical takeoff would have tempered the nastiness.

When a group of unsuspecting female moviegoers finally sees the FLAs pornographic masterpiece, theyre visibly moved its LaBruces final argument for the transformative power of lesbian porn. Ironically, its not the sequence with the most life-changing potential. That one comes when the credits roll over powerful real-life images of females all over the world doing work and resisting oppression. It shows uncommon respect for women.

But you have to sit through 90 minutes of torment before you get there.

LaBruce introduces the movie and does post-screening Q&As, Friday (February 1) at 9:15 pm and Saturday (February 2) at 8:30 pm.

@susangcole

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