1992, 84 min. Directed by Angela Hans Scheirl, Ursula Pürrer, Dietmar Schipek. Starring Angela Hans Scheirl, Pürrer, Susanna Heilmayr, Margarethe Neumann.
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., July 8, 1994
Unlike little else that has come before it (except, perhaps, Lizzie Borden's 1983 gem Born in Flames), this 1991, Austrian-made, futuristic, lesbian thriller/romance/science fiction co-direction is in a league of its own. Set in the year 2700, the future portrayed here bears faint resemblance to any present we call our own. The fact that this universe is primarily comprised of lesbians is only one of the ways in which this film creates its overriding sense of unfamiliarity. Then there's the strangeness of the characters themselves, and a host of disorienting narrative and visual techniques that compel the viewer to constantly construct meanings anew. Shot in Super 8 and blown up to 16mm, the resultant graininess and threadbare aesthetics only contribute to Flaming Ears' dislocating effect. Dime-store props and special effects actually work to enhance the movie's overall artificiality, rather than exclusively looking cheesy and fake. Disruptively obvious effects like claymation, stop-motion photography, and cardboard cut-outs are employed to invent this future of the imagination. Also, the florid, non sequitur dialogue would be laughable were it not so odd and provocative. Flaming Ears opens with the sight of a character named Volley (played by co-director Pürrer), who is on roller skates and wears Mickey Mouse-like pyramids atop her head, engaging in drugged sex with a piece of furniture which she then sets on fire. Volley's actions are only preludes to the pyromaniac's celebrity performances at lesbian sex clubs. The opening fire destroys the print shop of cartoon artist Spy (Heilmayr) who then sets out in search of Volley. After getting beaten up and bounced from the sex club, she is befriended by Volley's Robocop-like girlfriend Nun (co-director Scheirl). The crewcut Nun is clothed in a red plastic jumpsuit and munches big raw snails and flame-kissed alligators. There's not a whole lot more plot I can figure out with much certainty. Though Flaming Ears goes on longer than it needs to and is, at most times, difficult to narratively follow, it is never uninteresting to watch. Bursting with creatively shot images and an overwhelming disturbance of the familiar and “natural,” Flaming Ears is a case study in making the most from the least. Its imaginative stretches and its low-budget production values will not appeal to all fancies, although it has developed a reputation as a “cyberdyke” cult movie. Perhaps the best description of Flaming Ears was penned by critic B. Ruby Rich: “Imagine the film that J.G. Ballard might have made if he'd been born an Austrian dyke, and don't say I didn't warn you.”