Female Misbehavior

"Female Misbehavior" (1992) consists of four short documentary-movies made by German director Monika Treut during the 1980s and early 1990s.

Female Misbehavior

Monika Treut: Female Misbehavior: Annie

The subjects include performance porn, transexuality, bondage, and Camille Paglia. The film is an exploration of sexual deviation up against mainstream feminism and orthodox female heterosexuality. Each film runs from ten to thirty minutes.

"Dr. Paglia" is a portrait of Camille Paglia, the querulous author of Sexual Personae who has been called things from "academic Rottweiler" to "antifeminist feminist." With the composure of a speed freak, she whips herself into a confessional tirade.

"Annie" is the vehicle for porn star/performance artist Annie Sprinkle. Born Ellen Steinberg from New York, she presents herself as a classic schleppe in the pre-makeover stage. Before our very eyes, Annie Sprinkle emerges as the colorful butterfly from the nondescript larva. Making up her face in the mirror, she tells us she likes to explore all of her different personalities, especially the ones that make her feel sexy. We see her playing comically on stage with her boobs like a vintage Betty Boop cartoon character. The act continues as she invites the audience to take a flashlight and look at her cervix.

"Max" profiles transsexual Native American Max (born Anita) Valerio, who lives in San Francisco. Unlike Camille and Annie, Max is not pushing an act, but is promoting our understanding of what it's like for a longtime lesbian to change her body and attitudes on the way toward becoming a heterosexual man. On camera, we meet Max, who for all intents and purposes looks just like an older teenage boy.

The fourth item in this collection, "Bondage," is a bit boring. We hear from a New York tit torturer in S/M drag about the pleasures of being an exhibitionist. The woman goes into extensive detail about the ropes and hooks that she can string throughout her apartment to serve as a spiderweb in which to truss her victims. Stroking her whip, she confides it isn't so much an instrument of pain as it is a way of waking up sensations. Since the fantasies she speaks about are never enacted on screen, this film segment wears thin after the first five or ten minutes.

Female Misbehaviour is bound to be controversial on many levels, and it's supposed to be. Treut's portraits of modern sexual outlaws are fascinating, amusing, and rendered with wit and noncondescending intellect.

review: Randy Turoff

CA, color, sound, 80min, 1992

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