Harman Bains at Auto Italia

Auto Italia, E2, have collaborated with Harman Bains, a theoretical writer and researcher, to produce a film piece with a highly pedagogical value on the topic of the "monstrous female", using film and literature sources. The piece is highly compelling and easy to digest, as well as being undoubtedly educational and artistic. Interestingly, Bains uses films predominantly from the 1970s-1980s period, and we are provided with a list to explore her ideas further.

Prior to entering the screening room at the back of the space, we are shown a billboard-style advertisement for the Taiwanese film 'Golden Queen's Commando', directed by Chu Yen-Ping, which sets the tone nicely for the rest of the show. We are informed that the film is about seven women, all of whom are decidedly troublesome in their defying of the roles of good, pure women. Much like stereotyped or one-dimensional gimmick characters, they are defined by their individual skillset, including a sex worker, martial arts expert, samurai and 'eye temptress'. It is all rather amusing and cartoonish, yet being somehow sexually liberated and assuming male roles clearly sets out to intimidate and terrify the male audience and other characters in the film. The summary describes that all women are "out for revenge", and this sentence reminds me of the way in which contemporary feminists are portrayed by uninterested or regressive opposers to the movement.

Koji Wakamatsu, Ecstasy of the Angels (still), 1972. Produced by Wakamatsu Productions and distributed by ATG. Auto Italia, London. 

'Nature of the Hunt' is really a film essay, which is fitting given that Bains is a writer and researcher before a fine artist. We are firstly introduced to the idea of the monstrous woman, which is instantly relatable to anyone who has read Victorian literature, in addition to myriad film references one could think of. Whereas in many of these examples the monstrous woman comes in a range of forms, from the mentally ill and reclusive women, to superhero-villain, psychopath murderous characters, for several reasons (all positive, I believe), Bains has refrained from addressing the former in too much detail, instead touching upon behaviour that is symptomatic of figures such as the female vampire.

As the point of departure for the entire film, the female vampire is an incredibly interesting and stimulating character in terms of the themes that emerge from its analysis. As we are told by the narrator, her lust for blood becomes a metaphor for problematising heteronormative sexuality, showcasing a destructive attitude towards her male lovers. Additionally the hysterical woman's equidistance between human and animal is addressed, leading us to the realisation that the female who undermines normal behaviour and activity is marginalised and dramatised in a way that is similar to mankind's treatment of animals. 'Nature of the Hunt' is informative and exciting with its stream of film clips leaving the viewer wanting to explore its themes and theories further. The fact that the vast majority of films in the selection have male directors is not inconsequential, alluding to ancient mythology of the fear of castration and powerful women, using creative sources to merge fictional and real scenarios.

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