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European Film  
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German filmmaker Ulrike Ottinger has become a significant figure in lesbian cinema with her extravagant avant-garde fantasies. The attractions and desires of her female characters are never overtly presented, but are instead subtly encoded in the stylized mise en scène of her films.

Her first film, Laokoon and Söhne (Laocoon and Sons, 1975), stars Tabea Blumenschein, an underground film actress and Ottinger's lover at the time. Ottinger and Blumenschein collaborated again on Madame X--eine absolute Herrscherin (Madame X: An Absolute Ruler, 1978), a satiric and erotic fantasy, which has since reached cult status, about a group of women who join a female pirate on her sea voyages.

Ottinger has also directed several documentaries, primarily on marginalized cultures, such as China. Die Künste--Der Alltag (China. The Arts--The Everyday, 1985), about everyday life in the Sichuan and Yunnan provinces of China; Taiga (1992), concerning nomadic tribes in northern Mongolia; and Exil Shanghai (Exile Shanghai, 1997), the story of six exiled Jews in Shanghai who later settled in the United States.

Monika Treut has explored controversial social issues and celebrated transgressive sexuality in such films as Verführung: Die grausame Frau (Seduction: The Cruel Woman, 1985), about the psychological aspects of sadomasochism, and Die Jungfrauenmaschine (Virgin Machine, 1988), in which a female German journalist investigates the lesbian subcultures of San Francisco.

The compilation documentary Female Misbehavior (1992) is perhaps Treut's best-known work. "Bondage" (1983) examines the lesbian S&M and bondage scene; "Annie" (1989) showcases lesbian performance artist Annie Sprinkle; "Dr. Paglia" (1992) focuses on critic Camille Paglia; and "Max" (1992) documents the female-to-male transsexual journey of Max Velerio.

Derek Jarman and British Film

The British filmmaker Derek Jarman was a uniquely idiosyncratic artist known for his opulent imagery, social criticism, and bold explorations of homosexuality. He routinely revisited history from a gay perspective, and his work was influenced by such gay European filmmakers as Cocteau, Fassbinder, and Pasolini, and the American underground director Kenneth Anger.

Sebastiane (1976), Jarman's debut feature film (co-directed by Paul Humfress), is an overtly homoerotic interpretation of the life and martyrdom of Saint Sebastian, with dialogue spoken entirely in Latin. The film opens with an extended scene set in a Roman orgy where naked men covered in body paint dance while wearing comically exaggerated penises. The film's explicit content and ground-breaking full-frontal male nudity earned it an X rating when it was first released; the film went on to become a critical and commercial success.

Jarman followed that film with Jubilee (1977), a political fantasy in which Queen Elizabeth I time travels to find England a wasteland of violence and anarchy, and The Tempest (1979), a visually lush reworking of Shakespeare's play. Jarman returned to Shakespeare for his next feature, The Angelic Conversation (1985), a unique, non-narrative exploration of the underlying theme of homosexual desire in fourteen of Shakespeare's Sonnets.

Caravaggio (1986), which examines the art and sexuality of the late-Renaissance Italian painter, is perhaps Jarman's most popular work. Told in an intentionally anachronistic manner--motorcycles and jazz music are juxtaposed with richly rendered, painstaking recreations of Caravaggio's most famous works--the film emphasizes the artist's homosexual affairs with his models and the various scandals in which he was involved.

In 1991, Jarman created a film version of Christopher Marlowe's play Edward II. Although the film is relatively faithful to Marlowe's Elizabethan text, Jarman's direction turned the source material into a parable of homosexual martyrdom in the face of institutionalized homophobia, with direct references to the repressive nature of Thatcher-era British politics. Jarman augmented the film with graphic visualizations of homosexual love and sadomasochistic violence.

Other significant films by Jarman include The Last of England (1988), War Requiem (1989), The Garden (1990), Wittgenstein (1993), and his final work Blue (1993), in which a soundtrack of voices, sound effects, and music are densely interwoven against a plain, unchanging cobalt blue screen to convey Jarman's experiences with AIDS.

Jarman died of an AIDS-related illness in 1994.

British filmmaker Terence Davies began his career with the short films Children (1976), Madonna and Child (1980), and Death and Transfiguration (1983). These intensely personal films chronicle the main character from childhood to death and examine how he copes with his working-class family, religious upbringing, and his own homosexuality. The three films were released together in 1984 under the title The Terence Davies Trilogy.

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