Freak Orlando

Virginia Woolf meets the German camp underground in this 126-minute extravaganza of performance art and oddity by Ulrike Ottinger. Actually, the political focus is closer to that of Tod Browning’s Freaks than to Woolf’s Orlando, though Ottinger has taken from Woolf the notion of an ideal protagonist [who] represents all the social possibilitiesman and womanwhich we normally do not have. The five episodes situate the hero/heroine in the Freak City department store (along with her seven dwarf shoemakers), in the Middle Ages, toward the end of the Spanish Inquisition, in a circus (where he falls in love with Delphine Seyrig, one of a pair of Siamese twins), and on a grand European tour with four bunnies (during which she appears at an annual festival of ugliness). The whole movie is as variable as a circus, but there are some priceless bits, including a virtuoso solo performance of Christ on the cross (1981). (JR)

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