Building strong word of mouth on the independent film festival circuit and the internet, director Greg Hatanaka’s Mad Cowgirl is an absorbing and highly surreal observation of a woman’s slow decent into madness. Therese (Sarah Lassez) is an attractive, recently-divorced meat inspector who appears to have three main hobbies: eating undercooked red meat, watching a series of kung-fu movies featuring “Cindy, The Girl With the Thunderbolt Kick”, and banging every guy in town, including the abundantly creepy Walter Koenig as a local televangelist with a fading ministry.
Therese’s brother (James Duval, May) is a meat importer with dubious ethics, and Therese, as his assigned meat inspector, lets his shoddy practices slide once too often. She unwittingly consumes meat that is tainted with mad cow disease and the film, which was already plenty quirky to begin with, veers crazily toward the absurd as Therese begins reenacting many of her sexual and kung-fu fantasies as the disease invades her brain.
It’s difficult to seriously discuss a movie as invigorating and purely independent as Mad Cowgirl. The boisterous and highly preposterous plot machinations can be interpreted in many different ways, especially from a what-is-reality perspective (much like Polanski’s Repulsion or the work of David Lynch) and it’s probably best for each viewer to draw their own conclusions.
It’s apparent that Hatanaka is a director with a strong sense of artistic integrity making fascinating yet unconventional choices in regards to shot framing, editing, and narrative. The film is anchored by the brilliant and sexy central performance of Sarah Lassez, delivering a fearless piece of acting (it must take a fair amount of bravery to masturbate to Star Trek’s Chekov on film). Although not exactly a horror movie, Mad Cowgirl is violent, bloody, and casually disgusting in the most enticing of ways, an experimental film that reminds you how cool experimental films used to be.