Ulrike Ottinger has a larger body of work than almost any other lesbian filmmaker, and her rarely seen first feature contains most of the elements that make her work so unique and ahead of its time. In this extravagantly aestheticized, postmodern pirate film she appropriates the male genre for feminist allegory. Madame X — the cruel, uncrowned ruler of the China seas — promises “gold, love, and adventure” to all women who’ll leave their humdrum lives behind. Gathered aboard her ship, Orlando, are a range of types: a frumpy housewife, a glamorous diva, a psychologist, a very German outdoorswoman, a bush pilot, an artist (played by Yvonne Rainer), and a “native” beauty. Their utopia devolves into betrayal and self-destruction—leading to eventual transformation—as the power games of the outside world are ritualized among the women. Tabea Blumenschein, who designed the film’s outrageous costumes, appears in a dual role as the pirate queen and the ship’s lovely, leather clad figurehead. Refusing conventional storytelling and realism for a rich, non-synchronous soundtrack, the film invites its audience along for an unprecedented journey that celebrates the marginal. —Patricia White, Swarthmore College
Ulrike Ottinger (born June 6, 1942) is a German filmmaker, documentarian and photographer. She is the daughter of the artist-painter Ulrich Ottinger.
From 1959 she was a visiting student at the Academy of Arts in Munich and worked as a painter.
From 1962 to 1968, she worked as a freelance artist in Paris and studied etching with Johnny Friedlaender among other studies. They participated in several exhibitions. In 1966 she wrote her first screenplay, entitled Die Mongolische Doppelschublade.
Ottinger returned to West Germany in 1969 and, in cooperation with the Film Seminar at the University of Konstanz, founded the film club “Visuell”, which she directed until 1972. She also headed a gallery and the associated "galeriepress”, where they edited works by contemporary artists.
During this time she met Tabea Blumenschein and Magdalena Montezuma, both of whom have been cast as lead actresses in her films since 1972. Ottinger developed her own bizarre… read more