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February 01, 2009

MS. 45 — CLASSIC FILM PICK

Ms_45_Abel Ferrara's 1981 cult über thriller is a badass feminist take on the good-old-bad-old days of '70s-'80s Manhattan that gave rise to films like "Death Wish" and "Taxi Driver."

Screenwriter Nicholas St. John teaches his own school of fuck-you dramatic form with an unprecedented double inciting incident that's like getting sucker punched, twice. Mute garment-district seamstress Thana (played by the lovely Zoe Tamerlis) is raped twice after a long day at work. The second violation occurs in Thana's small Hell's Kitchen apartment. You don understand that this girl is mute, right?

In the second attack Thana gets the better of her attacker with an iron. On yesssss. After some piecemeal corpse removal done in the bathtub, Thana makes use of the rapist's gun to go on a revenge killing spree that proves even more cathartic, if as stylish, than "Death Wish." Charles Bronson eat your heart out. 

It's a shame that when "Ms. 45" was finally released on DVD, nearly a minute of footage was cut from the original version. Shame I tell ya'. Ferrara's outsized creativity is refreshing in its indictment of the verbal, physical, and psychological abuse against women that still goes on in America, and serves as a significant time capsule of a particular era in this country's culture of hate.

Ms_45.2

"Ms. 45" is filled with tons of droll humor, a great soundtrack, and a determinedly unsanitized of New York in the early '80s. James Lemmo's camera work is contagious and the cool tone of the movie is exceptional. I went through a period when I kept my VHS copy of "Ms. 45" in the player for about six months and watched it repeatedly. There's a depth of symbolic magic in this movie (check out Ferrara's ironic use of a nun's habit as a Halloween costume), and more than a little sex appeal from its traumatized but determined protagonist. Abel Ferrara's movie is pure Cinema straight into the vein of its audience. Get smacked baby. You'll keep on coming back for more. 

Zoe-tamerlis-in-ms-45

Rated R. 80 mins. (A) (Five stars — out of five / no halves)

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