Women in Revolt Reviews
written and directed by Paul Morrissey
starring Candy Darling, Holly Woodlawn, Jackie Curtis, Jonathan Kramer, Michael Sklar, Maurice Braddell, Johnny Kemper, Sean O?Meara, Prindiville Ohio, Penny Arcade
The women are all played by transvestites or transexuals and the men are all boorish, oversexed pigs in this delightfully blistering assault on the pretentious meanderings of the Woman?s Liberation Movement.
Jackie Curtis (Curtis) is a bit confused about her sexual identity. She thinks she might be a lesbian but isn?t altogether certain. For much of the film she is a virgin with little or no clue about what sex is actually like. What she does know is that she?s fed up being treated like a sex object and with her friends starts up Politically Involved Girls (PIG), an organization the conjures up memories of Valerie Solanis?s ?The SCUM (Society for Cutting Up Men) Manifesto?.
Men are treated very poorly in this film. With the exception of a houseboy in the beginning, they all assault various women and begin the initial stages of rape before the women either fend them off, they grow tired, or the women acquiesce. PIG seems to be anti any traditional roles that women might play in society. There isn?t really a strong program or set of demands that is set up. Mostly it?s just the women complaining about their troubles with men.
Holly (Woodlawn) is a nymphomaniac who grinds with any person in her immediate vicinity. She simply cannot help herself and perhaps she is PIG?s idea of a liberated female. Nobody controls her and she is routinely given license to satisfy her desires at any opportunity. She?s a filthy skank which does suggest she?s freer to debase herself than more civilized, prissy females who would rather be dehumanized in a more regimented, socially sanctioned fashion. Holly simply takes what she wants and doesn?t give a damn what others may conclude about her behavior. She?s truly liberated which is a joke the film uses to further its argument that the dogma inherent in the actual movement argument well deserves to be ridiculed.
Candy (Darling) is a wealthy socialite who gets corralled into the movement because of her essential glamour and prestige. She isn?t taken by the movement at first but gradually begins to adopt it as a way of life. She wants to be a big star more than anything else and cites her experiences with PIG as giving her the inspiration to move out to Hollywood to pursue her dream.
Jackie discovers a straight relationship with Johnny Minute (Kemper), a former Mr. America who deflowers her and introduces her to oral sex. They have a son together which Jackie seems utterly incapable of raising. She starts off rallying against men and then she goes off and lets one impregnate her.
Holly ends up a bum alcoholic stumbling about near the end of the film on the ice. She tries to literally pick up a bum who has fallen ostensibly to molest him in some fashion or another.
This is a film for marveling in the performances of Candy, Jackie and Holly. Firstly, the camera adores all three and they most certainly do bring various aspects of glamour to the screen. Jackie?s shredded glam chic is prominently displayed and she punishes the camera with the occasional pout or wistful sigh. Holly is a tornado that blisters across the screen dry humping anything she can get her hands on. Her sexual gymnastics is exaggerated to the point of parody. She?s not really having sex, she?s just having a fit. Candy exudes a classic glamour that harkens back to a time with femininity was clearly defined and purposeful. She radiates a cool calm that is intoxicating and tantalizing.
This film is a dissection of traditional heterosexual relationships. It articulates a position that men are domineering, crass and malevolent; they worship their prowess and push women around either physically or verbally. All the men in this film are vulgar and abusive. Candy interviews with an agent named Max Morris (Sklar) who initially appears impressed with her talent. Quickly, however, the horn dog emerges and he starts to manhandle her, attempting to force himself on her for easy sex. Later, Candy is pushed around by the Journalist (Kramer) after he verbally attacks her calling her out on her sexual behavior with all the directors she has ever worked for.
The film seems to be asking a basic question regarding the legitimacy and necessity of men. The spirit of the film is of a denunciation of traditional male attitudes towards females within the social construct and offers up reprisals for these ingrained, oft-hostile approaches to females.
The use of mock females in this film who are playing actual women is an elaborate hoax that plays like a deliberate joke. Paul Morrissey has said that Candy Darling was the most feminine creature he has ever had the pleasure to meet. He also said that her entire persona is a great joke. She is indeed more feminine that most women and her approach to being a woman harkens back to a different age where women were glamourous and made statements with their clothing, makeup and hair. During the Women?s Liberation Movement these niceties were ridiculed and considered crippling to the freedom of women. The film neatly shatters this myth by presenting a caricature of femininity that is in itself a biological confusion. The ?real? women in this film warble on about all the horrible things men have done to them including rape and other forms of abuse. Candy, the most woman-like of all of them, merely takes certain aspects of the message to heart and liberates herself from a codified life that offers her no opportunities to pursue her great goal of becoming an A-list film actress.
The sex in this film is really just a parody of actual sex as the actors seem to be doing nothing remotely erotic and instead jerk their bodies around in a pantomime of intercourse. They are frenzied and frustrated. There is no legitimate sexuality on display here but rather moments where overheated bodies grind and grunt reducing their attempts at sex to a type of artificial boredom.
Candy says, and it?s not altogether clear who she is speaking of, that ?we are young, rich, beautiful...and miserable.? All the promises affixed to the glamourous life are busted wide open by a simple realization that she uses to her advantage. She takes a simple idea, perhaps the core of PIG, and does something about it instead of merely talking a big game and doing next to nothing. Still, the movement is a failure as all the big guns wind up fulfilling certain expected roles. Jackie winds up with a kid and turns into a good little housewife. Holly ends up a drunk. Candy makes 37 films in 4 years although she has to be penetrated routinely by her gruff, boorish directors to make it happen. The truly feminine is blindsided by ambition that has been unleashed and knows no limits or boundaries. Regardless, the entire movement is proven to be inadequate and mostly a sham that does nothing to encourage natural femininity in a society that is fundamentally devoid of it in nearly ever realm save cinema and all its inherent glamour.
The performances in this film are slinky and strange. Candy Darling uses her posture and gestures to portray a woman who has maintained her mystery and many undiluted charms. She channels the spirit of actresses such as Kim Novack who continue to represent high Hollywood glamour. Candy makes for a more impressive woman than most others who are biologically created female. Jackie Curtis is more butch and less concerned with creating the perfect illusion in this film. She does come across as feminine but there is a touch of the male in her performance. Perhaps it comes down to the stubble which ultimately shatters the illusion and reminds the viewer that this is still a man reimagining what a woman is truly like. Holly Woodlawn plays a character who is as oversexed as the men in this film. At every opportunity she writhes about with whomever is closest to her. Her opening scene is with a man who wants to have sex with her and roughs her up a bit in order to satisfy his desire on her flesh. She pushes him off but he is relentless. Finally she calms down and is more receptive to what he wants to do to her. It?s a furious performance of distended limbs, sharp movements, and a cacophony of hysterical shrieks.
Overall, this film is a terribly funny, intoxicating send-up of the Woman?s Liberation Movement. Through its casting and devastating delivery of lines the film puts the pin in the bloated balloon that the movement had become. Ideas of femininity are explored with a caustic eye for the ways in which it has become anathema to what passes for the movement. Men are to be eliminated from the equation and there is not a man here who possesses any sensitivity regarding the needs and feelings of the women they boss about. Nearly every man is demanding and charmless. They bash women for perceived indiscretions and assume they are their property. The film doesn?t exactly offer up any guidelines women can follow to liberate themselves from the tyranny of men. It merely shows the ways in which various woman have been forced to endure this tyranny strictly for the amusement of men. Yes, men are treated very poorly in this film and there are no opportunities for any other type of man to emerge and proclaim a perspective that challenges the essential one put on display.
The improvisatory method of film making employed by Morrissey these earlier films (which he compares to the recent Christopher Guest) comedies) is obviously not worth overlooking. While thematically and narratively minimized to the aforementioned cultural criticisms, letting these non-actor actors, themselves products of the 60s movements criticized therein, improvise the dialogue and character believably within such limits unites the comedic with the underlying truth of Morrissey's satire.
While never realistic or authentic in appearance, the films look exists as an overtly theatrical space that puts the rambling torrent of words and their indirect cultural commentaries in the foreground. Morrissey's form here is an anti-cinematic inversion that places the verbal ahead of the visual as the narrative anchor. While I prefer Morrissey's final two films, the improvisatory work of this period seems much more miraculous, formally tenuous and always at the brink of chaos. Ironic, in that "Women in Revolt" is ultimately an argument against anti-moral chaos which relies heavily on chaotic personalities to deliver this message.