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Expressing herself.

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Having been panned for most of her efforts in front of the camera, pop icon Madonna unveiled her directorial debut at the Berlin Film Festival this week to only a smattering of polite applause.

Critics had already begun sharpening their pencils at the prospect of 'Filth and Wisdom' which revolves around a Ukrainian immigrant who finances his dreams of rock stardom by moonlighting as a cross-dressing dominatrix, and his two female flatmates. Madonna has been less than timid about her ambitions as a filmmaker, provoking smirks among the jaded corps of international reviewers at the Berlinale, which ranks among Europe's top three festivals.

A"I have always been inspired by the films of Godard, Visconti, Pasolini and Fellini and hope that I may one day make something that comes close to their genius,A" she said in a director's statement, ticking off some of cinema history's most iconic filmmakers. A London-based romp, 'Filth and Wisdom' stars Eugene Hutz, the Ukrainian frontman for a real-life Gypsy punk rock band, Gogol Bordello, as well as British cult star Richard E Grant.

Hutz plays AK a self-proclaimed philosopher and poet, whose sideline career sees him assume characters ranging from a Marine drill instructor to former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher - depending on the tastes of his clients. Grant plays a blind professor and frustrated writer who lives in the same building.

And AK's flatmates are thinly drawn beauties: Juliette, a chemist with a drug problem who dreams of doing aid work in Africa, and Holly, a budding ballerina who becomes a pole dancer to make ends meet.

The audience at a preview screening broke its stony silence only a few times, during Hutz's raucous stage shows with Gogol Bordello and stripteases to Madonna's steamy hit 'Erotic' and 'Hit Me Baby One More Time' by Britney Spears, whom the singer famously French kissed at an awards show in 2003.

The sex scenes are vintage Madonna, involving kinky sadomasochism, outrageous costumes and a heavy dose of tongue-in-cheek humour.

But the script's penny-ante philosophy left viewers shifting restlessly in their seats: A"Without filth, there can be no wisdom, without darkness, there can be no light. Show me a beautiful girl and I'll show you a guy who's sick of her.A"

Madonna's own acting career got off to a promising start with a starring role in 1985's 'Desperately Seeking Susan', but then went into terminal decline with her appearances in major flops like 1986's 'Shanghai Surprise' alongside first husband Sean Penn.

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Publication:7 Days (Dubai, United Arab Emirates)
Date:Feb 15, 2008
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