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Mad Cowgirl

The point is not very clear, but there's an impressive weirdness to "Mad Cowgirl" that elevated it above more strained attempts at transgressive cinema at this year's San Francisco Indiefest. Outre tale of a nymphomaniac meat inspector who eventually goes on a murderous delusional rampage ticks off a checklist of offenses.

Cast:
With: Sarah Lassez, James Duval, Devon Odessa, Vic Chao, Walter Koenig, Christo Dimassis, Linton Semage, Douglas Dunning, Jaason Simmons, Luke Y. Thompson, Christopher Ogilvie, Katie Weaver.

The point is not very clear, but there’s an impressive weirdness to “Mad Cowgirl” that elevated it above more strained attempts at transgressive cinema at this year’s San Francisco Indiefest. Outre tale of a nymphomaniac meat inspector who eventually goes on a murderous delusional rampage ticks off a checklist of offenses — incest, blasphemy, casting “Star Trek’s” erstwhile “Mr. Chekhov” Walter Koenig as a dirty old man, et al. Yet it has the kind of oddball conviction that separates a deserving cult flick from so many aspiring ones. Still, finding commercial exposure will be tricky.

Dedicated to both John Cassavetes and Doris Wishman, Gregory Hatanaka’s second feature (following 2004’s little-seen “Until the Night”) focuses on attractive, thirty-ish Therese (Sarah Lassez), a San Francisco slaughterhouse inspector at the height of mad cow disease paranoia. She herself may have a related, deadly brain disorder — but that may be as delusional as her later assuming the identity of the kung-fu-fighting heroine in a cheesy ’70s TV show (“The Girl With the Thunderbolt Kick”) she’s obsessed with.

Therese is definitely a little too close to her handsome butcher brother (James Duval), not to mention a horny Catholic priest (Koenig). Latter’s decision to end their affair is just one of several factors that drive Therese crazy, prompting a climactic bloodbath in which she imagines herself taking on the “Thunderbolt” character’s mythic foes, with dire results for nearly everyone she’s had sex with lately.

Random switches to foreign languages with English subtitling, clever soundtrack choices, and some left-field stylistic tacts keep pic unpredictable and often funny, even if its in-joke aura may alienate some. There’s no serious attempt at separating the protag’s reality and fantasy worlds, or analyzing her increasingly off-kilter psychology.

For the most part, thesps wisely maintain a straight face, acting as though even the most outre sequences are business-as-usual.

Tech aspects appeared competent within low-budget bounds, but the visual presentation can’t be fully judged since projection at the screening reviewed was excessively dark. A 35mm transfer is expected to be available by summer.

Mad Cowgirl

Production: An Epoch Entertainment production. Produced by Edwin A. Santos. Executive producers, Eunseon Ha, Taka Arai. Co-producer, Elana Krausz. Directed by Gregory Hatanaka. Screenplay, Hatanaka, with Norith Soth.

Crew: Camera (color, DV), Spike Hasegawa; editor, B.N. Lindstrom; production designer, Hatanaka, Hasegawa; set decorator, Justin Stone; special makeup f/x, Kentaro Yano; sound, John Nakamura; assistant directors, Max Chang, Luke Y. Thompson. Reviewed at San Francisco Indiefest, Feb. 4, 2006. Running time: 89 MIN.

With: With: Sarah Lassez, James Duval, Devon Odessa, Vic Chao, Walter Koenig, Christo Dimassis, Linton Semage, Douglas Dunning, Jaason Simmons, Luke Y. Thompson, Christopher Ogilvie, Katie Weaver.

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