Review by Trylon volunteer Patrick Vehling.
Drafthouse Films, the company responsible for the theatrical and DVD/Blu-Ray distribution of Abel Ferrara’s Ms. 45, is one amongst many such studios that are part of a massive resurgence of amazing HD remasters, usually from the original camera negatives. Drafthouse has taken great care in creating a spectacular presentation of popular and otherwise lost cult cinema classics – Ms. 45 is no exception.
Zoë Tamerlis (Lund), then 17, plays Thala, a mute garment worker who is sexually assaulted twice, and turns from victim to avenger. It is this perfectly subtle performance by Tamerlis that makes Ms. 45 such a devastating and haunting film; we witness Thala relive the assault early on as she attempts to remove her clothing to take a bath, but is physically and mentally repulsed at the idea.
The next day we see a dramatic shift in her appearance, as she wears tighter clothing and a pulled back ponytail, carrying herself in a more confident manner before seeking revenge. Thala’s revenge is more than vengeance against her rapists, however–it is revenge against societal views on women. Unfortunately, Tamerlis, after only acting in a handful of films died at 37 in Paris due to heart issues from an increasing cocaine addiction.
Nicholas St. John, screenwriter for Ms. 45, wrote twelve films, ten of which were for Abel Ferrara before they had a falling out around the mid 90s–or rather, St. John parted ways from Ferrara for religious reasons. St. John’s exit from film was foreshadowed in many of his scripts, most of which were riddled with religious, specifically Catholic, symbolism and ideals. In Ms. 45 we see the meek, virginal Thala put on a nun’s habit while wearing thick makeup and bright red lipstick – a sort of reflection on St. John’s constant struggle between following God and doing violence towards yourself and others.
Ferrara’s film is a grand, violent exploration of human character and life in gritty New York City in the early 80s, a film highly recommended for those in need of experiencing a revenge tale with a bit more reality than Tarantino’s Kill Bill. Ms. 45 is a powerful lashing out against modern politicians’ absurd obsession with rape culture.
Patrick Vehling was raised in Minneapolis, weaned by Kurosawa, Tarkovsky and Herzog, interested in travel, linguistics, coffee, whiskey and sometimes has been known to make a film on Super 8.