Documaker Daniel Peddle also works as a casting director, and so it is small wonder his crisp, concise, intimate portrait of six very different, self-styled “aggressives” — women who stress their masculine sides — should reveal in each a curious integrity and beauty. Filmed over a five-year stretch, “The Aggressives” comfortably keeps pace with the women at various stages and environments, from fashion shoots to prison cells, with casual non-judgmental ease. After an Oct. 7 opening at Gotham’s Quad Cinema that followed a successful run on the gay fest circuit, classy docu, like “Is Paris Burning?” or “Rize,” could attract wider auds.
Docu spends little time defining its title. What distinguishes an aggressive from, say, a bull dyke is more a question of attitude and self-description than of kind.
In the current fluid atmosphere of gender differentiation, an astonishing amount of variation in sexual preference and presentation is possible within any given category. Peddle has the knack of introducing his subjects as they are living in the moment, often with girlfriends or at work or emceeing a gay ball, so that their individual corner of the aggressive lifestyle is neither confining nor confusing, but rather highly unique.
Tiffany, whose masculine persona is that of a “faggot,” sleeps with a transvestite undergoing female hormone treatment. Big, bulky, shaven-headed Flo, one of the few Asians in a largely black or Latino lifestyle, is joyously at home in her chosen milieu.
It quickly becomes clear, through the docu’s straight forward approach, that what chiefly distinguishes these women is the choice of social personae that ignores gender.
Kisha works as a part-time messenger in masculine attire, and also as a freelance femme model.
RJai, who is often recognized on the street after her appearance on the Ricki Lake show, is the perfect gentleman date, strong, yet sensitive and caring.
Most of the women’s jobs allow them to pass, unofficially, as male if they so choose. When Octavia is thrown in prison for dope-dealing and Marquise goes into the Army, the docu shows both entering habitats that problematically mirror their sexual duality. Octavia finds she is suddenly obliged to play butch, like it or not, which goes against the “aggressive” credo of doing what comes naturally.
Marquise, who physically cultivates a masculine physique and has been toying with the idea of trying hormones, realizes she may lack the temperament as well as the testosterone to lust after battle.
Jeanny Tsai’s high-quality lensing is impressive, and the pic’s clear audio is aided by subtitles to facilitate comprehension of unfamiliar accents and terminology.