By Erin Free

Even on the sex-and-violence smeared resume of Abel Ferrara, Ms. 45 (released in Australia under the less inspired title of Angel Of Vengeance) is a particularly powerful cinematic face-slap from this wonderfully confrontational filmmaker. Though many of his movies (King Of New York, The Blackout, The Funeral, The Addiction) place a wall of aesthetic stylisation between themselves and the audience, Ms. 45 is horrifying in its immediacy. Taking the tics of the familiar urban vigilante/rape revenge subgenres of the exploitation thriller and turning them on their head, Ferrara delivers a film of icy brilliance: it may have played in low-rent cinemas upon its release, but make no mistake – Ms. 45 is an uncompromising piece of art.

Zoe Lund takes aim in Ms. 45
Zoe Lund takes aim in Ms. 45

Thana (Zoe Lund) is a mute seamstress in New York City’s Garment District, who quietly goes about her business every day, a near cipher of a woman. On her way home from work, Thana is dragged into an alley and raped at gunpoint. Dazed and bruised, she returns home, and walks in on a burglar, who beats and rapes her. This time, however, Thana gets the better of her attacker, beating him to death with an iron. She then steals his gun (the .45 of the title), hacks up his body, slots his various bits and pieces into plastic garbage bags, and disposes of them across the city. Gripped by nightmares and a growing, crippling paranoia, Thana eventually turns vigilante, walking the streets with a gun in her handbag, ready to blast any man who gets in her way. Once meek and docile, Thana is now an urban equalizer, staging her own bloody battle of the sexes.

Beginning with his casting of the otherworldly Zoe Lund (also known as Zoe Tamerlis and Zoe Tamerlaine) – a tragic/romantic model, writer, musician and underground figure who died at the age of 37 in 1999 after years of extensive drug abuse – Ferrara crafts a film like no other. Filled with rich, sometimes arch symbolism, and possessed by a rampaging feminist spirit, Ms. 45 is alternately ugly and beautiful, boasting scenes of hypnotic violence unrivalled in low budget American filmmaking. It might look like a video nasty, but Ms. 45 is much, much more.

Ms. 45 screens on June 24 as part of Brisbane’s Gallery Of Modern Art (GOMA)’s In Character programme. For all programme, venue, session, and ticketing information on In Character, head to the official website. For more on In Character, click here.


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