Trust John Waters to never go for the easy choice.
"Abuse of Weakness," the latest work from controversial French filmmaker Catherine Breillat, is Waters' pick for this year's Maryland Film Festival, set for May 7-11, largely in the Station North Arts District.
The film, which is getting its Maryland premiere, stars Isabelle Huppert as a director who, after suffering a stroke, is victimized by a notorious con man. It is based on a similar incident that happened to Breillat, who spent five months in a hospital recovering from a 2004 stroke.
Breillat has earned a reputation for audacity and fearlessness in her films, which often probe attitudes toward female sexuality that fall well outside the mainstream and have been known to make audiences, especially male audiences, uncomfortable.
Her films include 1976's "A Real Young Girl," about a 14-year-old's sexual awakening; 1999's "Romance," about a woman grappling with the lack of intimacy in her relationship; and 2001's "Fat Girl," focusing on a sexual rivalry between 12- and 15-year-old sisters.
Waters has presented a movie of his own choice at every Maryland Film Festival, beginning with Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor in the notorious 1968 bomb "Boom!" in 1999. His other picks have included Gaspar Noe's "I Stand Alone" in 2003, Bobcat Goldthwait's "Sleeping Dogs Lie" in 2007" and Ulrich Seidl's "Paradise: Faith" in 2013.
In addition to the Waters pick, festival organizers announced four other films Tuesday. They include:
- Roger Vadim's 1968 "Barbarella," starring his then-wife Jane Fonda as an intergalactic sex kitten, will be presented by the Baltimore-based electronic music duo Matmos.
- Victor Sjostrom's silent 1924 "He Who Gets Slapped," with Lon Chaney as a shamed scientist relegated to life as a circus clown, will be presented (and accompanied by) the three-piece Alloy Orchestra;
- Director Slava Tsukerman will present his own "Liquid Sky" (1982), featuring aliens coming to Earth in pursuit of heroin.
- DJ Spooky will present Robert Downey Sr.'s 1969 "Putney Swope," a darkly satiric swipe at both advertising and race relations.
The five-day Maryland Film Festival will include some 50 feature films and 10 short-film programs. This year will mark the first since its inception in 1999 that the festival is not being held at the five-screen Charles Theatre, whose operators have said they could no longer afford to rent their facilities for the four days that would be required.
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