Halfway through Peggy Ahwesh's remarkable film Martina’s Playhouse (screened last night as part of a mini-retrospective of her work at this year's PDX Film Fest) an adult woman lays on the floor pretending to be a baby, while her daughter (still very much a baby herself) pretends to be the mother. Sound interesting? It was. Peggy Ahwesh's best work is full of these kind of weird, manipulative moments, where traditional roles of gender and sex are reversed, creating a new language through which to see the world.
Last nights screening (co-sponsored by the fine folks at Cinema Project), took on the Herculean task of fitting an overview of Ahwesh's nearly thirty-year career into seven films. Though there were some films I would've liked to have seen included (The Dead Man, her collaboration with Keith Sanborn being at the top of the list) as a whole, the program felt complete.
Peggy Ahwesh's films have a marvelous improvisational quality to them, and her ability to integrate high minded theory (she considers herself a recovering "Bataille addict"), without sacrificing coherency felt remarkably fresh on-screen.
Some of last nights highlights: The Color of Love, in which Ahwesh subverts the typical male gaze in pornography, reclaiming it as the stuff of female erotic fantasy; Pittsburgh Trilogy Part 2, a documentary on a group of Ahwesh's eccentric friends (that bearded fellow who talks incessantly about the dating service seems worthy of his own documentary); and She-Puppet, where Ahwesh re-appropriated footage from the popular Tomb Raider video game, turning Lara Croft into the kind of mythic, existential figure you'd expect to encounter on a peyote trip, and lending a human voice to the cold 3-D world of stylized sex and violence.
Up next, The 8th Annual Peripheral Produce Invitational (in which Ms. Awesh is participating). You can see the rest of the lineup here.