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February 01, 2009

Ms. 45 (Classic Film Pick)

Ms. 45 Abel Ferrara's 1981 cult über thriller is a 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 dramatic form with an unprecedented double inciting incident. 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 Hell's Kitchen apartment. There she gets the better of her attacker with an iron. After some piecemeal corpse removal, Thana makes use of the rapist's gun to go on a revenge killing spree that proves even more cathartic, if as stylish, as "Death Wish." It's a shame that when this film was finally released on DVD, nearly a minute of footage was cut from the original version. Ferrara's creativity is refreshing in its indictment of verbal, physical, and psychological abuse against women and serves as a significant time capsule of a particular era in American culture. "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, and more than a little sex appeal from its traumatized protagonist. Abel Ferrara's movie is pure cinema straight into the vien of its audience. Get smacked baby.


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