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Legitimate (Film Review)

Izzy Lee's "Legitimate"

Izzy Lee’s “Legitimate”

Boston filmmaker Izzy Lee’s first short, Legitimate, may only have a running time of five and a half minutes, but it certainly packs a punch in that time.  Opening on the infamous quote from Senator Todd Akin (“If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to shut that whole thing down.”), Lee’s film quickly makes its aim clear: to speak truth to power, in the most horrifying way imaginable.

A senator (Michael Thurber) arrives in a dark, underground room, which we quickly realize is a strip club of some sort.  A beautiful dancer (Karin “UnAmerika’s Sweetheart” Webb), tied up in a long rope, proceeds to dance for him for a couple of minutes, rhythmically twisting and turning as she gradually unties herself for him.  The whole thing unfolds to a sinister, thumping score, a scene which recalls the heyday of Argento or even De Palma in its judicious integration of sound and image.

Lee’s camerawork and editing are extremely polished and intuitive, and her mise-en-scene and color sensibility is flawless, evoking the perfect balance of seduction and menace.

Izzy Lee's "Legitimate"

Izzy Lee’s “Legitimate”

Suddenly, the senator starts looking ill; he collapses, and three women dressed in plastic (one of whom is the director, wearing a mask) gather around him, looking positively gleeful.  Without giving too much away, the next scene reveals the senator, looking much worse for wear, writhing on the pavement in the cold light of day.  The soundtrack has changed markedly to a sadistically chipper country number (reminiscent of the soundtrack of Craven’s The Hills Have Eyes), which clashes wonderfully with the senator’s bloodstained appearance and grimaces of agony.  No one would question that whatever just befell him was a “legitimate” violation—and yet, as demonstrated in early Cronenberg, the horror of seeing a violated male body resonates very differently, in a broad cultural sense, than seeing a violated female body.

Seeing women’s bodies being violated is something we’re so accustomed to that people like Akin feel they can presume to make distinctions between “legitimate” and “illegitimate” violations, a level of audacity and hubris that Lee skewers perfectly in Legitimate.  The senator’s lascivious glance gets turned back on him, and he doesn’t like the results one bit.

The fact that this is Lee’s first short is quite impressive; her voice is assured, and her direction is top-notch.  After an informal conversation with her, I learned that her next projects include a fake trailer for the Brattle Theater’s annual competition, followed by a festival bumper for Celluloid Horror Fest’s competition (to be judged by the inimitable Soska twins, of American Mary fame).  All of this is exciting, to be sure, but I only have one question for Lee: when will she make her first feature?

[rating=6]

By Lita Robinson

 

Lita Robinson works in the world of film festivals and indie distribution at Visit Films and Baxter Brothers Releasing in Brooklyn.  She holds a Master’s in Cinema Studies from NYU and has a particular fascination with the intersection of feminist theory and body horror.  You can read more of her work at her blog, LitaOnFilm.com, or find her on facebook at facebook.com/LitaOnFilm.

About Lita Robinson

Lita Robinson holds a B.A. in Film Studies from Smith College, and an M.A. in Cinema Studies at the Tisch School of the Arts at NYU. She currently works in sales and distribution, and consults as a story editor on the side.

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