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Madame X: An Absolute Ruler
Madame X: Eine Absolute Herrscherin
A film by Ulrike Ottinger
Germany, 1977, 141 minutes, Color, 16mm/DVD, Subtitled
Order No. W99581
"Ulrike Ottinger has a larger body of work than almost any other lesbian filmmaker, and her rarely seen first feature contains most of the elements that make her work so unique and ahead of its time. In this extravagantly aestheticized, postmodern pirate film she appropriates the male genre for feminist allegory. Madame X — the cruel, uncrowned ruler of the China seas — promises "gold, love, and adventure" to all women who'll leave their humdrum lives behind. Gathered aboard her ship, Orlando, are a range of types: a frumpy housewife, a glamorous diva, a psychologist, a very German outdoorswoman, a bush pilot, an artist (played by Yvonne Rainer), and a "native" beauty. Their utopia devolves into betrayal and self-destruction—leading to eventual transformation—as the power games of the outside world are ritualized among the women. Tabea Blumenschein, who designed the film's outrageous costumes, appears in a dual role as the pirate queen and the ship's lovely, leather clad figurehead. Refusing conventional storytelling and realism for a rich, non-synchronous soundtrack, the film invites its audience along for an unprecedented journey that celebrates the marginal." — Patricia White, Swarthmore College

ALSO OF INTEREST  Ulrike Ottinger: The Autobiography of Art a new book by Laurence A. Rickels, which offers analyses of Ottinger's films, as well as her more recent photographic artworks, is now available for purchase through the University of Minnesota Press.

Interested in a 3 year streaming license? Contact orders@wmm.com for more info.


  • Rotterdam Film festival
  • Berlin Film festival
  • Edinburgh Film festival
  • Locarno
  • Aperto 80, Biennale di Venezia

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    "Ottinger reappropriates the aesthetics of narcissism for a feminist discourse, reflecting the problematics of reappropriation through a many-layered parodistic masquerade."
    Miriam Hansen
    University of Wisconsin

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WMM offers film collections on a variety of specific subject areas, including the collections VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN: Ending the Silence, BODY IMAGE, and AFRICAN-AMERICAN: Celebrate the Lives of African-American Women.

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Women Make Movies is a multicultural, multiracial, non-profit media arts organization which facilitiates the production, promotion, distribution, and exhibition of independent films and videotapes by and about women. contact us