Anthology Film Archives

FEMALE MISBEHAVIOR: THE FILMS OF MONIKA TREUT & ELFI MIKESCH

June 24 – July 26

FEMALE MISBEHAVIOR: THE FILMS OF MONIKA TREUT & ELFI MIKESCH
Before the pandemic shuttered Anthology's theaters, we had finalized plans to host the filmmakers Monika Treut and Elfi Mikesch – two pioneers of German LGBTQ cinema – in June, for a dual retrospective featuring a selection of the films they have made both together and separately. Since the coronavirus has conspired to make it impossible for Treut & Mikesch to travel to New York City as we had intended, we’ve reconceived the retrospective as an online program. Thanks to our partner Goethe-Institut New York, and to the German film distributor Salzgeber Club, which has arranged to host the “virtual” screenings, we are making 11 different films available for online streaming, from June 24-July 26. And as a special bonus, Treut & Mikesch will join us for an online Q&A on Saturday, July 18 (more details will be announced shortly).

Treut and Mikesch first collaborated in 1985, co-directing SEDUCTION: THE CRUEL WOMAN, a pioneering work of German LGBTQ cinema. Mikesch, who was born and raised in Austria but relocated to Germany in the mid-1960s, had previously directed several short films and features, as well as acting as cinematographer on films by her friend and colleague Rosa von Praunheim, and the Austrian artist and filmmaker Friederike Pezold. SEDUCTION would mark the beginning of a long and fruitful professional partnership between Treut and Mikesch, with the two co-founding the company Hyena Films, while Mikesch would go on to shoot almost all of Treut’s films over the next 20 years.

For 35 years now, Treut has devoted herself to depicting lesbian and gay lives on screen, exploring the mysteries and ambiguities of gender, and transgressing repressive sexual mores and ideas. In addition to SEDUCTION: THE CRUEL WOMAN, she has made numerous fiercely independent and fearless feature films – both fictional and documentary – including VIRGIN MACHINE, FEMALE MISBEHAVIOR, GENDERNAUTS, and many others. In recent years, her field of interest has come to encompass the culture and people of Taiwan.

For her part, Mikesch – in addition to acting as cinematographer on dozens of films by Treut and von Praunheim, as well as the great Werner Schroeter and others – has continued to direct extraordinary short and feature films of her own, which are sadly underappreciated in the U.S.

The online retrospective will showcase SEDUCTION, as well as seven of Treut’s later films, alongside three films directed by Mikesch: a new restoration of her first feature film, I OFTEN THINK OF HAWAII; her documentary portrait of Werner Schroeter, MONDO LUX; and her most recent work, FEVER.

To access the retrospective, click here (or follow the links to each individual film below).

“Female Misbehavior: The Films of Monika Treut & Elfi Mikesch” is co-presented by the Goethe-Institut New York and Salzgeber Club. Special thanks to Monika Treut; Elfi Mikesch; Sara Stevenson (Goethe-Institut New York); Julianne Augustine & Marc Mauceri (First Run Features); Juliane Camfield & Sarah Girner (Deutsches Haus at NYU); Anke Hahn (Deutsche Kinemathek); Gesa Knolle (Arsenal Distribution); Björn Koll, Andreas Köhnemann, Jan Nurja, Jürgen Pohl, and Johann Peter Werth (Salzgeber); and Frieder Schlaich (Filmgalerie 451).

Elfi Mikesch
I OFTEN THINK OF HAWAII / ICH DENKE OFT AN HAWAII
1978, 82 min, 16mm-to-digital
“This first film by Elfi Mikesch is a semi-documentary portrait of a Berlin family, contrasting the mundane daily life routine of Ruth and her 16-year-old daughter Carmen with an extraordinary fantasy life shared by mother and daughter, and built precariously on memories of Carmen’s missing father. The father, who appears in the film only as a projection (in photos and reminiscences), was a Puerto Rican career soldier who met Ruth at a dance, promised to show her the world, but disappeared after a second child was born, leaving behind him only postcards and some Hawaiian records. With the help of Mikesch, Carmen acts out her fantastic yearnings for an exotic world of tropical colors and dreams far removed from the drab reality of working-class Berlin, possibly as far removed as Honolulu.” –PACIFIC FILM ARCHIVE

Monika Treut & Elfi Mikesch
SEDUCTION: THE CRUEL WOMAN / VERFÜHRUNG – DIE GRAUSAME FRAU
1985, 84 min, 35mm-to-digital. In German with English subtitles.
Wanda (played by Pina Bausch dancer Mechthilde Grossmann) is a dominatrix who runs a gallery in a building on the Hamburg waterfront, where audiences pay for the privilege of watching her humiliate her slaves. She is a business woman who smashes sexual stereotypes and social taboos with icy self-possession and an enigmatic smile. As an artist, she specializes in the staging of elaborate S&M fantasies, while her affairs transgress the usual boundaries of personal and professional life. Along the way she leaves her German lesbian lover, a shoe fetishist, for an American “trainee,” and does more than step on the toes of the male performer who has broken the rules of the master-slave relationship by falling in love with her.

Monika Treut
VIRGIN MACHINE
1988, 84 min, 35mm-to-digital. In English and German with English subtitles.
Dorothee, a would-be writer and journalist, leaves Germany for the Oz of San Francisco, searching for her long-lost mother and a cure for the malady of love. Installed in the Tenderloin, she peeps in on neighbors’ bizarre sex rituals, as well as doing some sightseeing of the more traditional kind. But her encounters with male impersonator Ramona, charming Hungarian bohemian Dominique, and Susie Sexpert, barker for an all-girl strip show, lead to exploratory adventures of self-discovery and fun. When Dorothy surfaces like a dazzled tourist on the wilder shores of the city’s lesbian community, she has discovered her true sexuality…and left some illusions behind.

“"If the film’s sexual politics relate Treut to Fassbinder – it’s like THE BITTER TEARS OF PETRA VON KANT without the angst and melodrama – the black-and-white look of the film harks to the velvet of Germany’s glory days, the expressionist films of the 20s.” –John Harkness, NOW

Monika Treut
MY FATHER IS COMING
1991, 82 min, 35mm-to-digital. In English and German with English subtitles.
Vicky works as a waitress and dreams of stardom, but her hopes are continually dashed by disastrous auditions and an unconquerable German accent. Her world threatens to disintegrate when she learns of the impending visit of her father, lured by stories of his daughter’s success in America. Vicky’s attempts to dissimulate include concealing her job and inducing gay roommate Ben to pose as her husband. Bavarian sausage-smuggling Hans, Vicky’s father, arrives and encounters an exotic subculture of gender-benders, fakirs, and, most of all, ex-porn queen Annie Sprinkle (playing herself), leading to discovery and adventure for both father and daughter.

“Art-film outlaw Monika Treut provides hard and hilarious copy with her decidedly iconoclastic works of pansexuality. An orgasmic opus!” –Michael Musto, VILLAGE VOICE

Monika Treut
FEMALE MISBEHAVIOR
1992, 80 min, 16mm-to-digital
FEMALE MISBEHAVIOR is a collection of four films that explore the outer limits of female sexuality and behavior. Each film features a “misbehaving” woman, outlawed not only by society but also by mainstream feminism. ANNIE is an inside look (in more ways than one) at Annie Sprinkle, porn-star, performance artist, and sexual diva. DR. PAGLIA is a confrontation with Camille Paglia, the infamous author. BONDAGE centers on an S&M practitioner and her use of pain as pleasure. MAX is the story of a transsexual’s journey from female to male.

Monika Treut
DIDN’T DO IT FOR LOVE
1997, 80 min, 16mm-to-digital
A documentary portrait of Eva Norvind, aka Mistress Ava Taurel, born Eva Johanne Chegodaieva Sakonskaya in Trondheim, Norway. The film follows Eva’s many careers, from her time as a showgirl in Paris to her transformation into Mexico’s Marilyn Monroe in the 1960s, and culminating with her establishing herself as New York’s most famous dominatrix in the 1980s. Using clips from Norvind’s Mexican films, stills from various periods, and interviews with friends, partners, and family, Treut’s documentary traces Eva’s search for the wellspring of her obsessive and dark sexuality.

“Treut has always aimed her camera at the front lines of the sexual avant-garde. But with her latest documentary she’s managed to leap across the socio-sexual battlefield as never before. […] Armed with more present lives than Shirley MacLaine has past ones, Norvind is as eloquent as she is paradoxical.” –David Ehrenstein, NEW TIMES

Monika Treut
GENDERNAUTS
1999, 86 min, 35mm-to-digital
GENDERNAUTS is an illuminating and compassionate look at the world of transgender identity, as seen through portraits of some of San Francisco’s leading gender mixers. Whether by birth or by choice, sometimes with the assistance of hormones or surgical prostheses, we meet those who blur the lines of male and female. Treut elicits testimonials from a diverse array of personalities, as well as expert opinions from sex celebrity Annie Sprinkle and the “Goddess of Cyberspace” Sandy Stone.

Monika Treut
GHOSTED
2009, 89 min, 35mm-to-digital. In English, German, and Chinese with English subtitles.
GHOSTED is a mysterious love story set in Hamburg and Taipei. Through a mixture of flashback and present-day storytelling we follow the Hamburg artist Sophie as she comes to terms with her Taiwanese lover Ai-Ling’s murder. To ease her grief, Sophie creates a video installation about Ai-Ling. When she brings the exhibition to Taipei she meets the ambitious and seductive Mei-Li, a journalist who is investigating Ai-Ling’s death. Unable to forget her dead lover and confused by Mei-Li’s advances, she flees back to Hamburg. But when Mei-Li turns up on her doorstep, Sophie begins to suspect something strange is going on.

Elfi Mikesch
MONDO LUX – THE VISUAL WORLDS OF WERNER SCHROETER / MONDO LUX – DIE BILDERWELTEN DES WERNER SCHROETER
2011, 97 min, digital
In 2006, in the midst of staging SCHÖNHEIT DER SCHATTEN, a scenic project on Robert Schumann and Heinrich Heine at Düsseldorf’s Kunsthalle, the great German filmmaker Werner Schroeter discovered that he was terminally ill. Mikesch was a vitally important collaborator of Schroeter’s, having served as cinematographer on most of his later works. In MONDO LUX she presents an intimate portrait of the filmmaker at work during the last four years of his life, capturing the life force of a man driven by his unflagging passion for the cinema, the stage, and photography. We see him rehearsing for a theater production, preparing for an exhibition of his photographs, and in the studio supervising the completion of his final film, THIS NIGHT (2008). MONDO LUX creates an intimate space – a space in which every day becomes precious in the face of terminal illness. Werner Schroeter died on April 12, 2010.

Monika Treut
THE RAW AND THE COOKED / DAS ROHE UND DAS GEKOCHTE
2012, 83 min, digital
Continuing Treut’s late-career fascination with Taiwan, this documentary explores the country’s rich culinary traditions and their relationship to the island’s unique culture. Taiwan has one of the best and most diverse cuisines in Asia, as food is the foremost passion of its 23 million inhabitants. Taiwan is also a densely populated island; urbanization proceeds while agriculture is in decline. But there is a growing movement for environmental protection. In Treut’s tour around the island’s coastal regions she seeks out people who are making a difference with innovative projects to create a sustainable food system.

Elfi Mikesch
FEVER / FIEBER
2014, 87 min, digital. In German with English subtitles.
In 1950s Austria, Franzi, 11 years old, lives in a small town with her parents. Photographs belong to her life like picture books to those of other kids. She spends days and nights between dream and reality, “bringing to life” the photos her dad took in Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia while being stationed there as a foreign legionnaire. The images are enigmatic and spark her imagination; fascination and horror never lie far apart. The father’s feverish dreams, triggered by a recurrent surge of malaria, become the girl’s nightmare. Years later, the grown-up Franziska – now a renowned photographer – travels from Graz to Novi Sad, searching for a lost sister, and the images of her childhood start to blur together with her journey to Serbia.

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