know any film that gives a shout out to the Guardian Angels in its closing
credits is the product of a very specific time and place. Obviously, this is New York, but not just
pre-Giuliani. It is also pre-Dinkins during the first Koch administration. Things are pretty rotten, but they will
improve a bit, only to get considerably worse before America’s Mayor turned the
city around. However, one violent crime
victim does not have twelve years to wait for the City to become livable again. She is determined to clean the town up, one
male predator at a time, in Abel Ferrara’s exploitation favorite, Ms .45 (trailer here), which Drafthouse
Films re-releases tonight in New York at the IFC Center.
is an apparently mute seamstress who simply wants to be left alone to live her
modest dormouse existence. Then one
night after work, she is sexually assaulted on two separate occasions. The second was a home invader, whom she
successfully fights off. He will now be
leaving her apartment in pieces. She
also takes possession of his gun and its seemingly endless supply of bullets. The first time she uses it out of panic, but
killing lowlife scum soon gets to be a compulsion for her.
so let the body count begin. Frankly, it
is easy to see both why critics initially loathed Ms .45 and how it subsequently developed a rabid cult
appreciation. The film shows Ferrara’s
gritty street level aesthetic at its absolute rawest, he also displays a
surprisingly keen eye for visual composition.
The concluding conflagration’s Texas-sized Freudian imagery is
Ms .45 functions as a
feminist-empowerment vigilante exercise, yet the film’s gender politics are
rather slippery on closer examination.
Always a little off, the increasingly agitated Thana begins to conflate
any innocent expression of male sexuality with violent sexual aggression, which
holds potentially horrific implications.
It is tempting to interpret her choice of Halloween costume—a nun’s
habit—as a commentary on feminist Puritanism.
Or perhaps Ferrara was just trying to offend Catholics. Regardless, you have to respect a film with
something to appall everybody.
future Bad Lieutenant co-writer Zoë
Tamerlis Lund fits the part of Thana disturbingly well (especially given her sadly
premature end). She projects all kinds of vulnerability but is simultaneously spooky
as all get out. Despite the film’s deliberate sleaziness, there are fine
dramatic moments in 45, particularly
Lund’s tragically ironic scene with a bar patron played by Jack Thibeau.
When watching Ms .45, it is hard to shake the uneasy feeling we are looking two
years into the future of the de Blasio administration. At least the music is funky, featuring some
first class studio cats, like Artie Kaplan. Amusingly, the instrumentation
heard on the soundtrack does not always match the musicians seen on-screen, but
so be it. This is not the sort of film where
one should obsess over small details.
Instead, it is opportunity to see Ferrara truly in his element, serving
up the vicarious guilty pleasures of street justice. Recommended for cult film connoisseurs, the
lovingly restored Ms .45 screens this
weekend (12/13 & 12/14) midnight-ish at the IFC Center in New York and a
tad earlier at the Alamo Drafthouse in Yonkers.
Labels: Abel Ferrara, New York Cinema, Vigilante Films