Portrait of a Female Drunkard in some ways aptly describes Ottinger’s film as it assesses the demise of an unnamed, unspoken woman on a mission to drink herself to death, but in others it takes away and prevents us from expecting the unsettling surrealism that much of the film utilises throughout. Yet, such is the way Ottinger plays with her unsettling vision that much of what we see will not fully strike the viewer until long after viewing as she drifts in and out astutely of investigating the admittedly narrow structure of someone trying, as we might assume, to drink away significant pain whilst constructing many cinematic ironies throughout.
One scene in which our titular figure is seen binging on cognac at a startling pace as a group of unrelated ladies – who appear throughout – discuss the statistics surrounding alcoholism particular resonates with me. It, alongside the final sequence which displays our figure done and ultimately ignored by those around her, exhibits astutely what Ottinger’s film very clearly represents. Even more so, the effect on the viewer is driven by a strange poignancy.
This woman’s problem may have been clear, but her inevitable solution was even clearly. Ottinger succeeds because of that: she’s made a film worthy of pure existentialism, but also one with a strong importance due to how it manifests statements of irony and then drops them like a bomb straight onto the viewer’s lap. What a strange, unsettling, beautiful work.