Sunday, December 18, 2016

Born in Flames (Lizzie Borden, 1983)

You know what this movie really needs? (A sense of humour?) No... Well, yeah, it could have been funnier. Now, I'm not saying it should have been Romy and Michele's High School Reunion funnier, but still, a little levity would have helped the film's ultra-earnest temperament go down a whole lot smoother. Damn, why did I bring up Romy and Michele? Now I want to watch it. Seriously, I don't even know why other movies bother to exist, as nothing will ever top the sheer awesomeness that is Romy and Michele's High School Reunion. Maybe instead of watching it, I'll just fold scarves or whatever. Anyway. What was I saying? Oh, yeah. You know what this movie–which, I might as well mention, is called Born in Flames–really needs? That's right, it's needs Lydia Lunch. I ain't kidding around, it needs her sneer badly. Well, to be fair, Adele Bertei's sneer is nothing to sneeze at. Nonetheless, the film, directed by Lizzie Borden, could have really used some Lydia Lunch. (Yeah, well. She's not in it... so, get over it.) Okay, now that we got all that nonsense out of the way, let's see how many "isms" I can use while describing this movie. The most obvious and most important one is feminism, as it permeates the proceedings like an estrogen haze. Mmm, an estrogen haze. Oh, to have rivers of uncut estrogen coursing through my veins. Yum. Soften my wiry skin, you sweet, sweet elixir, you. Make my nipples... (Focus!) Huh? Sorry 'bout that.

Yeah, you could say the film is definitely pro-feminist. It's also pro-socialism, anti-racism, pro-lesbian, anti-classism and pro-Bogosian (the film marks the acting debut of writer Eric Bogosian and, for some reason, the acting debut of Strange Days director Kathryn Bigelow).

You could say the film is kinda anti-Mark Boone Junior as well. I mean, to see a non-bearded Mark Boone Junior cock-blocked on the subway by a couple of a vigilante lesbians was beyond infuriating. Wait a minute. No it wasn't. In fact, it was the complete opposite of infuriating. There's nothing I despise more than watching men trying to talk to women in public. It would be fine if both parties wanted to talk to one another. But the woman doesn't want to talk to you, so leave her the fuck alone. I can't tell you how many times I've watched men try to strike up conversations with women on the subway. And every time it happens, I want to crawl under the nearest pile of garbage and die. It's just so embarrassing.

Luckily for the subway riding woman in Born in Flames, her Mark Boone Junior-related problems are solved by a couple of members of a radical feminist group that may or may not have ties the Women's Army. Of course, Mark Boone Junior is just doing what the patriarchy has repeatedly allowed and encouraged him to do. And that is, openly suppress women.

Now, you would think that equality would reign supreme in the New York City portrayed in this film. After all, the so-called "Social Democratic War of Liberation" was apparently won ten years ago. And even though, the U.S. is currently a socialist, Bernie-approved paradise, women, minorities and the working poor are still being screwed over.

With rape, racism and unemployment running rampant across the country, it leaves Isabel (Adele Bertei), the host of a pirate radio show called "Radio Ragazza" and Honey (Honey), the host of "Phoenix Radio," no choice but to fight back against this oppressive society.

While the ideas bandied about in this film are large in scope, the execution is actually quite minimal. Saddled with a minuscule budget, Lizzie Borden, using stock footage of riots and civil unrest and clever editing techniques, has made a low-budget epic with science fiction overtones. Or, I should say, slight sci-fi overtones.

Although the world depicted in this film might have seemed far-fetched in 1983, it's like watching a documentary when compared to today's current political climate.

In fact, some of the dialogue sounds eerily similar to discourse I regularly hear in the media nowadays. Which, in a way, makes Born in Flames all the more relevant. Of course, that doesn't mean the film isn't overbearing at times. The characters don't really talk to one another, it's more like they speechify at one another. That being said, the film is definitely a must-see for fans of punk rock (the film's scrappy theme song is a snotty riot), NYC in the early 1980s (the film would make an excellent double-bill with Downtown '81 or Vortex), leftist radicalism and hardcore feminism.

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