The Battle of the Sexes: Sado-masochism in 1960s-70s cinema

Femina Ridens 1
The Frightened Woman

Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies – London

Instructor: Virginie Sélavy

Date: 12 March 2015

Time: 7-10pm

Venue: Horse Hospital

Address: Colonnade, Bloomsbury, London WC1N 1JD

Prices: £10 advance / £8 concs / £11 on the door

Miskatonic website

In the 1960s-70s, the relaxation of censorship, together with women’s greater social assertiveness, led to the appearance of a substantial number of art and/or exploitative films that explored male/female relationships through sexual power games. A large sub-section, including Mario Bava’s The Whip and the Body (1963), Luis Buñuel’s Belle de jour (1967), Sergio Martino’s The Strange Vice of Mrs Wardh (1971) and Vicente Aranda’s The Blood Spattered Bride delve into what are presented as women’s secret repressed desires and internal conflicts. Aside from his numerous Sade adaptations, Jess Franco also dreamily explored female characters who are both victims and tormentors in Venus in Furs (1969) and Succubus (1968). Henri-Georges Clouzot’s Woman in Chains (1968) and Alain Robbe-Grillet’s Eden and After (1970) create hyper-aesthetic worlds of kinky abstract obsession while in Kôji Wakamatsu’s The Embryo Hunts in Secret (1966) and Pete Walker’s House of Whipcord (1974), the violence of amorous relationships takes on social and political connotations. Artist Niki de Saint Phalle made two unusual and fascinating contributions to this theme: not only did she co-direct her own semi-autobiographic perverse family fantasy, Daddy with Peter Whitehead (1973), but her art also appears in the fascinating Femina Ridens (Piero Schivazappa, 1968), which toys with expectations about dominant and submissive roles. The lecture will examine all these and more ramifications of the period’s unfettered sado-masochistic fantasies.

About the instructor:
Virginie Sélavy is the founder and editor of Electric Sheep, the online magazine for transgressive cinema. She has edited the collection of essays The End: An Electric Sheep Anthology, and has contributed to World Directory Cinema: Eastern Europe and written about Victorian London in Film Locations: Cities of the Imagination – London. Her work has appeared in various publications, including Sight&Sound, Rolling Stone France, Cineaste and Frieze.

About the Miskatonic Institute:
Named for the fictional university in H.P. Lovecraft’s literary mythos, The Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies is a non-profit, community-based organization that started in Canada, founded by Kier-La Janisse in March of 2010. The school currently has branches in Montreal and London, with Miskatonic London operating under the co-direction of Kier-La Janisse and Electric Sheep Founder/Editor Virginie Sélavy.

All classes take place at the historic Horse Hospital, the heart of the city’s underground culture. Individual class tickets are £10 advance / £11 on the door / £8 concessions and will be available 30 days in advance of each class.

The next course dates are 9 April, 14 May, 11 June. For the full details of the courses please check the Miskatonic website. For all enquiries, please email

International Film Festival Rotterdam 2015

Videophilia (and Other Viral Syndromes)

International Film Festival Rotterdam

21 January – 1 February 2015

Rotterdam, Netherlands

International Film Festival Rotterdam website

The line-up of the 44th Rotterdam festival was as eclectic as ever, with an emphasis, as usual, on independent filmmakers from all over the globe. This year was dominated by European and American productions, and there was a plethora of Canadian – in contradistinction to ‘American’ – films of various lengths on offer.

One coup of the festival was to lure the Russian ‘punk’ band Pussy Riot to the festival, for an onstage Q&A, a late night stage appearance, and a viewing of Pussy Riot Versus Putin with teaser clips from the follow-up documentary about the band.

Readers of this magazine will all, undoubtedly, have their own view on examples of ‘mind fuck’ films, but this year I encountered what can only be described as an ‘eye fuck’ film. Not since the time travel/star gate sequence in Kubrik’s 2001: A Space Odyssey have I encountered such a visual explosion of near-psychedelic proportions as achieved by the Peruvian Juan Daniel F. Molero in the world premiere of his ‘digital trip’ down the byways and sewers of ‘the interwebz’ film, Videophilia (and Other Viral Syndromes).

The Cyprus/Greece/Slovenia co-production of Impressions of a Drowned Man, directed by Kyros Papavassiliou, was a very evocative existential – and poetic – meditation about memory and identity while the Vietnamese magic-realist fantasy film The Inseminator, by Bui Kim Quy, took as its subject traditional village values in an unchanging world. Joanna Lombardi’s Solos was a Peruvian road movie about a quartet of romantic individuals who take a film (which we never get to see) on the road to remote villages, showing it in market squares on a portable inflatable screen (how I wanted one of those!), exploring ‘what it’s like to see a film disappear from cinemas seven days after working on it for years’.

Alongside the vast selection of films, the Jang Jin retrospective was a rewarding addition and the commitment of Rotterdam to short and medium length films from a variety of filmmakers is always to be admired and championed. Now heading towards its 45th incarnation in 2016, Rotterdam continues to be a significant player in the film festival circuit – quite an achievement in a world where there is said to be around 3,000 film festivals annually.

James B. Evans

Berlinale 2015 Preview

Berlinale 2015 poster
Berlinale 2015

Berlin International Film Festival

5 – 15 February 2015

Berlin, Germany

Berlinale website

Celebrating its 65th anniversary, this year’s Berlinale promises exciting new works from some of our favourite directors. And while the line-up is the usual mixed bag of hits and misses, there is still a great diversity of films on show that go beyond the eye-catching heavyweights, high-profile gala features and prestige ‘Berlinale Special’ screenings, which this year include the likes of Sam Taylor-Johnson’s much talked-about adaptation of EL James’s erotic fiction Fifty Shades of Grey and Anton Corbijn’s James Dean biopic Life.

One of the greatest highlights for us is undoubtedly Guy Maddin’s The Forbidden Room, screening in the notoriously unpredictable Forum section. Following his ambitious noir gangster ghost tale Keyhole in 2012, Maddin, who has a long-standing relationship with the festival, returns with a film, co-directed by Evan Johnson, that resembles an endless nightmare where plot, characters and locations constantly flow into one another.

Screening in Competition are Peter Greenaway’s Eisenstein in Guanajuato, Pablo Larraín’s The Club, Werner Herzog’s Queen of the Desert and Sabu’s Chasuke’s Journey, alongside other notable contenders such as Alexey German Jr.’s Under Electric Clouds, Radu Jude’s Balkan western Aferim!, and the highly anticipated German entry Victoria, by Sebastian Schipper. Plus, following on the heels of last year’s eccentric Berlinale winner Black Coal, Thin Ice, comes Chinese offering Gone With the Bullets, the second part of Jiang Wen ‘Bullet’ trilogy, which started with his cryptic 2010 comedy gangster drama Let the Bullets Fly.

Among the films we will be checking out in the Forum and Panorama strands are Emyr ap Richard and Darhad Erdenibulag’s quietly radical adaptation of the Kafka classic K, Mitchell Lichtenstein’s haunting game of insecurities Angelica, and Mark Christopher’s rediscovered and extended 54: Director’s Cut. We also look forward to Marcin Malaszczak’s The Days Run Away like Wild Horses over the Hills, which takes its title from a collection of poems Charles Bukowski wrote for his lover, and Matthias Glasner’s Blochin – The Living and the Dead, the pilot to a new German TV crime drama series starring Jürgen Vogel.

As always, the Berlinale will present a vast number of documentaries, this time focusing quite heavily on cult figures and troubled artists including Fassbinder, Nina Simone, Kurt Cobain and Yvonne Rainer, while Joshua Oppenheimer is at hand to present The Look of Silence, his acclaimed follow-up to The Act of Killing. Also of note is B-Movie: Lust & Sound in West-Berlin about the music, art and chaos in the wild West-Berlin of the 1980s, and Jean-Gabriel Périot’s A German Youth, which looks at the gradual transformation and increasing politicisation of the Red Army Faction (RAF) at the end of the 1960s until they took up armed resistance, constructed entirely from archive footage and audio material.

Germany in the late 60s also features heavily in this year’s Berlinale Classics strand, which offers a rare chance to see Jürgen Böttcher’s Born in ’45 on the big screen, alongside newly restored versions of E. A. Dupont’s Varieté and Richard Brooks’s In Cold Blood. Finally, this year’s Retrospective celebrates the 100th anniversary of ‘Glorious Technicolor’ films, with titles including John M. Stahl’s Leave Her to Heaven, Anthony Mann’s The Naked Spur and Powell and Pressburger’s Black Narcissus.

For more information about the programme and how to book tickets visit the Berlinale website.

Pamela Jahn