Ecstatic Stigmatic is an early product of the New York Cinema of Transgression movement which was active during the late 70s to late 80s. Directed by Gordon Stevenson (bass player for the seminal No Wave group Teenage Jesus and the Jerks) and starring his wife Mirielle Cervenka (little sister of Exene Cervenka of the band X), Ecstatic Stigmatic is the bizarre tale of Rose F., a stigmatic who is confined to a psychiatric hospital.
The film opens with a reading from Krafft-Ebing’s Psychopathia Sexualis which happens to include an entry on Rose F., a stigmatic who was formerly the leader of a dangerous blood-letting cult. We are then introduced to Rose at her current residence, a home for the mentally ill where she lies around in the crucifixion pose convulsing in ecstasy and speaking in tongues while bleeding from her hands, feet and mouth and refuses to eat anything but the Eucharist (this is all explained via narration).
Inter-cut with the hospital scenes are flashbacks to Rose’s childhood where we see young Rose (Mirielle Cervenka now wears pigtails and cute little dresses) interacting with her Father, a deranged preacher / tattoo artist and mother, a tattoo-covered performance artist. One night, while backstage at one of her Mothers performances poor little Rose is molested by a hilariously creepy and face-painted Arto Lindsay (of DNA “fame”). There also multiple visuals of religious imagery, gay pin-ups, tattoos of the crucifixion.
As it goes on, the film gets increasingly harder to follow but is mainly made up of scenes of Roses parents, Rose convulsing and being drip-fed raw egg, Arto Lindsay doing his facepainted multiple personality act, and plenty of other oddities.
It appears Ecstatic Stigmatic was shot mostly silent and then overdubbed with overly dramatic sound effects and a soundtrack of alternately screeching violin, No Wave-esque rock, Jazz and short bursts of white noise. Sadly the picture isn’t too hot as the only available copy of this film is a nth generation VHS dupe.
All in all Ecstatic Stigmatic is a highly experimental film that manages in turn to shock, confuse and at times even amuse. Sadly it was Stevenson’s one & only film as he died not long after from AIDS. A few years later, his wife and leading lady Mirielle was killed in a car crash.
I’d highly recommend fans of Transgressive, Experimental and Art-house cinema to seek out this obscure little flick.