Tuesday, January 26

#52FilmsbyWomen: January

So this is it, the #52FilmsbyWomen Challenge. I am so incredibly excited by this, in the past few years my growing list of favourite films has gradually become more and more female heavy/driven - with Frances Ha, Obvious Child and Bachelorette being added to my regular re-watch schedule; and I followed Marya E.Gates' 'A Year With Women' so closely that, although I have neither the patience nor the self-control to do what she did, I was inspired to do something similar.

“It’s irrelevant who or what directed a movie, the important thing is that you either respond to it or you don’t. There should be more women directing; I think there’s just not the awareness that it’s really possible. It is.” - Kathryn Bigelow

Beginning this challenge I really thought long and hard about the films I wanted to watch, sort of as my own personal challenge to myself, due to the aforementioned lack of self-control there is always the constant temptation to watch Obvious Child once a week for an entire year. I did however manage to resist and began with a film that I've owned on DVD for a few years, but never actually watched.

Bright Star
Dir. Jane Campion

I am very much for these adaptations of classics and depictions of classic writers, but I'm not quite as well versed (pun intended) in Keats, as I am with other Romantic authors.I think that lack of knowledge threw me a little at the beginning, it starts very immediately, and I had to have a mini-Keats Google search pretty early on to catch myself up. Once that was out the way I settled in, and properly loved it. 

It felt a little like a low-key Becoming Jane; I really liked Becoming Jane (although I was not ok with Anne Hathaway as Jane Austen) it was pretty and heartbreaking, but it also felt a little heavy-handed and 'Hollywood' in its story-telling. Bright Star was so much more subtle and delicate, nowhere near as obvious.

And the cinematography is perfect, each scene like a painting. Is it cheesy to say that this film is like poetry in it's subtlety - the use of light and dark, and the immense depth and power of what is left unsaid - so perfect. (Yeah, I know. That's probably cheesy.)


I like that during this challenge I'm 'allowed' to watch films by men, it's good to be able to compare. As well, as watching Bright Star in my first week, I also happened to watch American Gigolo (and Spotlight), which although in a different way, also had a romantic story at it's core. Then again they are similar in that they both portray a woman who becomes enchanted by an aloof, detached man who gradually falls in love with her despite himself (whether male prostitute or penniless writer) and therein, they could have had the same storytelling approach. Nevertheless, American Gigolo (dir. Paul Schrader) favours style and sex, over subtlety and storytelling, leaving the romance cold and emotionless.

I'm not suggesting that it's the mark of a male director to portray romance in this way, but it is something that I've considered previously. With all that in mind I threw a spanner in my 'mind works' and watched American Psycho.

So far, whilst deciding the films to watch during this challenge I'm having fun discovering popular female directed films, were in fact directed by women. As an example I discovered that Fast Times at Ridgemont High was directed by Amy Heckerling, and although I've never seen Fast Times... my mind was blown; Amy Heckerling who directed what is probably the apex of 90's teenage girl films - Clueless, also directed a film whose most famous scene involves Phoebe Cates emerging from a swimming pool in a red bikini, to bare her breasts to a young Judge Reinhold. To me that scene is so 'teenage male' it could be in every single episode of The Inbetweeners, but then again it was written by Cameron Crowe who created the leader of the manic pixie dream girls - Penny Lane.

American Psycho
Dir. Mary Harron

As I said, in doing this challenge I wanted to discover new films, watch things that I would never normally watch and seek things out that may have passed me by. American Psycho is a film that I've known of (I'm sure most people have), I've had the book described to me in some detail and I know of Brett Easton Ellis. But I had no idea who it was directed by.

I feel guilty for being surprised that this film is directed by a woman, not only that but it feels weird that it's so popular and I've never heard of Mary Harron (I have however watched one of her other films - The Notorious Bettie Page). But it makes sense, that the whole 80's Wall Street - money, greed and power scene seemed so testosterone driven that I kind of like a woman directing what to me felt like a dark, satirical portrayal of that. 

Now and Then
Dir. Lesli Linka Glatter

I giggled to myself when I put this on a couple of hours after watching American Psycho - I am nothing if not amused by myself. But this is a fun contrast to it, that it was kind of comical.

I feel like the 90's were littered with these sort of films - heartfelt, scmaltzy, friendship drama - I've seen the Hallmark channel, the only reason tis wasn't made for TV is because it has famous actors. If I'm honest, I did sort of enjoy this, it's like a super cheesy, version of Stand By Me, with girls instead of boys, but I probably missed my window by about 17 years to properly be affected by it at all. 

In watching this I did however discover that Lesli Linka Glatter has directed episodes of a few of my favourite TV shows - Masters of Sex, Nashville, Mad Men, The Good Wife, Weeds, Gilmore Girls... Yeah, a 'few' is an understatement, so that's pretty cool.

Very Good Girls
Dir: Naomi Foner-Gyllenhaal

I've said it before, and I'll say it again; the friendship shared between two women is an amazing thing. If a film maker can capture how I feel when I see two of my oldest, closest friends - our jokes, our shared memories and how much I trust and respect them - well, they've done a very good job.

Maybe the girlhood experiences of 18 year old girls growing up wealthy in New York are completely different to those of girls growing up in medium-sized English cities, but I neither related to nor believed their friendship, or their experiences - everything felt rushed and insincere, so much so that I found myself wondering how and why they knew each other (I also forgot their names, so that can't be good).

The story follows two best friends played by Dakota Fanning and Elizabeth Olsen, in the summer before they separate for University and other things. over the course of the summer they both fall in love with the same guy, and blah, blah, blah... their friendship is never the same again. The problem wasn't even the predictability of the story, it's that I didn't care about either character - and they didn't seem too interested in each other either; If it wasn't for Dakota Fanning actually being 18 (or around that age), I would never have believed they were teens falling in love (or teenage lust) for the first time, it felt so forced, faked and incredibly grown-up. I also find it quite telling that it took me about half an hour to find an image of both Elizabeth and Dakota in the same shot.

I always feel that writers shouldn't direct their own work, and I think this film is a prime example of this, nothing - the characters and the story - felt developed beyond one person's perspective.

And I'm off, to a good start I think. Four new, and different films, two of which are directed by women I've never heard of. Not a single re-watch (although, I confess I did watch Obvious Child over the weekend, but I'm not counting it in my 52), and a bulkier list of films to watch. 

Up next, well I'm not sure, I have so many that I want to watch now I'm discovering films, but I also have a few that I've been wanting to see for a while - Sarah Polley's Stories We Tell, Amma Asante's Belle and Gina Prince-Bythewood's Beyond the Lights and Tamara Jenkins' Slums of Beverly Hills. That being said, I am very open to recommendations!

As always, you can follow my viewing activity on Letterboxd!

You can find out more about the 52 Films by Women project here, and make sure you follow the #52filmsbywomen tag on Twitter to see what everyone else is watching. Most importantly, get involved, it's so much fun!

1 comment:

  1. ive not seen any of these, shock! need to up my girl game
    livinginaboxx | bloglovin


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