52 Films By Women – April 2016


#52FilmsByWomen

A few long weekends and a full week off gave me plenty of – one could argue too much – time to watch films. I’m currently at #21FilmsByWomen, at least according to my own way of counting them. Counting every single short as if it were a thing on its own I would be at 30 already, but that’s not how I roll, apparently. Last month I gave high praise to MUBI for letting me watch such a wide variety of films – not just for this little project but in general too. Right now they’re showing Russian classic Battleship Potemkin, bizarre French animation film Fantastic Planet, Out 1 – a 12 hour Jaques Rivette film, a Nigerian drama I will likely watch for this series, a surrealist short by Maya Deren – Meshes of the Afternoon and many more strange things I have never even heard of. If you’re ever done with the mainstream stuff Netflix and commercial TV keeps throwing at you, give it a try!

I recently also ran into another neat site. Not one for watching films, but one where you can easily track what you’ve seen and when you’ve seen it. It keeps a log of films you see, even rewatches (although that’s not something I do a lot), and to my great joy I get to make an unlimited amount of lists. So of course the first one I made is for this here challenge, but it escalated quickly to a personal Top 100, a list of my collection of discs and I’m holding back on making many many more. For some reason the site wouldn’t let me use my name as account name, even though no other account with that name exists, so I went with some film noir slang, because why not. Anyway, I’m tracking progress there too throughout the month. It makes writing these big posts a little easier.

Prior posts

Watched

As for May.. I have some more Nazi propaganda lined up (oh goody!) but I’m not sure if I want to watch that already. I have that Nigerian film to watch, I found a Lina Wertmüller film, I bought Agnès Varda’s Vagabond (from Artificial Eye for those interested, they have lots of Varda), Girls in Uniform which I was told was pretty amazing and I’m tempted to buy a Susanne Bier film I bought a Susanne Bier film. She’s painfully missing in this challenge so far, also because last year I had already seen the beautiful In a Better World (Hævnen). Her films are not easy to find, just like Wertmüller’s and many other’s. Oh and who knows what else MUBI will throw at me, or what may cross my path. I’m doing alright with the 4/month now so I’m not too busy planning out the rest of the year just yet.

 

Triumph des Willens CoverOriginal title: Triumph des Willens
Rating: 5.6/10
Year: 1935
Directors: Leni Riefenstahl
Duration: 114 min.
Genre: Documentary, History, Propaganda

Let me summarise my opinion on this film/documentary in two words: impressive & boring. Impressive because of the camera work. The opening shots filmed from inside an airplane are stunning. Later shots of huge crowds and the city of Nürnberg are aesthetically fantastic. Other tricks, such as filming people from a low angle making them appear taller worked well too. But then this film was also incredibly boring and much too long. It starts out pretty interesting with nice shots and hearing several party members give speeches. But pretty soon it becomes just one march followed by a speech after another. It all looks nice, but after an hour or so I had enough. I wasn’t as offended as I thought I would be. There isn’t much to feel offended by. I tried looking at this from a 1934 standpoint, meaning WW2 hadn’t happened yet. What you see is a populist leader making the crowds crazy with compelling speeches and a lot of Schauspiel. Knowing what would happen years later makes looking at the happy crowds a little painful, because I doubt all of the people there agreed with a war. But at the same time it should serve as a warning when dealing with other populist leaders or want-to-be-leaders of today and of the future.

 

Winter's Bone CoverOriginal title: Winter's Bone
Rating: 6.8/10
Year: 2010
Directors: Debra Granik
Duration: 100 min.
Genres: Drama

Winter’s Bone is a chilling character study of a 17 year old girl who has to take care of her family. She has two smaller kids under her wing, aged 12 and 6, a ‘sick’ mother and a missing drug making father. Before dad went missing, he apparently did something with his house and loans or whatever, meaning that if he fails to show up to court the family loses the house. So now he needs to be found but nobody’s feeling particularly helpful. The story takes place in a rather backwards and poor rural area in the US where it’s drugs galore and nobody talks while everybody knows. Expect a calm film and nothing crazy like car chases or big explosions. Because of that you might say it’s a bit of a boring film but I tend to like it that way. What sets this film apart is the acting. Both Jennifer Lawrence and John Hawkes got Oscar nominations for it. I thought the latter gave the best performance portraying missing dad’s brother, Teardrop. I would say this was an OK film overall. I can’t say anything bad about it, but it wasn’t overwhelmingly good either.

 

 

Documenteur CoverOriginal title: Documenteur
Rating: 6.8/10
Year: 1981
Directors: Agnès Varda
Duration: 65 min.
Genres: Drama

Agnès Varda is mostly known for films such as Cléo de 5 à 7, Vagabond and Le Bonheur (the latter two I very much want to watch this year), but she has also made a lot of documentaries. Probably more than normal films. Documenteur however is not really a documentary as the name might suggest. It’s a story of contemplation, reflection and eventually I think a bit of an autobiography of Varda as it seems very personal. There isn’t much going on in this film. It shows the day to day events in the life of a separated woman and her son. Some of the voice dialog is delivered terribly. A phone call with someone sounded like the one on the other end was for the first time reading their lines from a piece of paper. It made me wonder if I wasn’t watching a dubbed version or something. The visuals are great though and the main two characters, mother and son, do deliver. I found the film strangely compelling and so for me it was not difficult to let the crampy dialog be, and focus attention on the visual aspects of the film.

 

Le lion volatil CoverOriginal title: Le lion volatil
Rating: 6.2/10
Year: 2003
Directors: Agnès Varda
Duration: 12 min.
Genre: Drama, Romance

I’m counting this one and Documenteur as one. Not because they have anything in common, but because they are of the same director and (this) one is only twelve minutes long. It’s a simple symbolism-heavy love story. Worth the 12 minutes, but nothing too special. It revolves around a man and a woman, and a big statue of a lion sitting on the Parisian streets. And then weird symbolicy things start to happen.

 

 

Outrage CoverOriginal title: Outrage
Rating: 6.9/10
Year: 1950
Directors: Ida Lupino
Duration: 75 min.
Genre: Drama, Crime

This is the second Ida Lupino film this challenge. Earlier this year in February I watched The Bigamist after already having seen The Hitch-Hiker last year. Lupino is mostly famous as an actress for her role in films noirs such as High Sierra and They Drive by Night, but she was also a writer, producer and director. She directed a short string of social taboo films dealing with things such as bigamy, polio and rape. Outrage deals with the latter. The opening scenes show a happy couple about to be married, but tragedy strikes one night as the girl (Ann) walks home from work. I found the chase scenes leading up to the deed appearing to be a little sloppy and unrealistic in conveying dread to the viewers (but what do I know), but I had to remind myself that this was 1950 and this was probably something quite daring. The production code was still in full effect, so you could hardly show anything to begin with. The final shot of this part of the film leaves everything, but at the same time absolutely nothing, to the imagination. After this, the film deals with the after effects, and I think it does so in a great way. It shows all sorts of view points such as compassion, lack of understanding, treatment as a sick person, a victim, and as a human being who needs time and space to deal with it. I was quite impressed with this film – don’t let the 6.9 fool you. While it lacked the all star cast, great sets and other flashy things, this is still a very good film deserving of a bigger audience.

 

Five Shorts CoverOriginal title: Five Shorts
Rating: 6.1/10
Year: 1954
Directors: Lotte Reiniger
Duration: each about 12 min.
Genre: Animation, Fantasy

I watched the remainder of the first DVD in the BFI shorts collection, another five fairy tales. For some reason they are all listed as being from 1954. I’m not sure if that is true, but oh well..

One thing I immediately noticed is that these five all seem to have better production values than the previous set. The voice overs are much better and there appears to be a little theme song kind of thing going on when the shorts start. All of these stories are very straight forward and very goody-goody. This is especially apparent when watching Cinderella, which got a makeover from the 1922 version. In 1922 Reiniger didn’t hesitate to put in some self-mutilation trying to get a shoe to fit, but in 1954 all of that was gone and they skipped right to the happy end part. In fact there’s almost an overdose of happy end in these shorts as well as a lack of tension or action. Everything goes right the first time without you ever getting the feeling something might happen. It makes these things beautifully animated, but a little bit of a chore. And there wasn’t even any crazy Ping-Pong-like character to spice things up either this time. All in all I like seeing how these shorts are made more professionally, but they don’t necessarily get any better. I still have a second disc with another nine shorts and a little documentary (which I already watched after seeing Prince Achmed) so it will be interesting to see if they keep on getting better and if maybe they regain some of the boldness the first few had.

 

 

La guerra de Manuela Jankovic CoverOriginal title: La guerra de Manuela Jankovic
Rating: 6.0/10
Year: 2014
Directors: Diana Cardozo
Duration: 92 min.
Genres: Drama

Usually I link to films in that little nifty table above the text, and so I shall this time, but it seems in this case so few people have seen this one that it’s barely even on IMDb. Therefore I present you (again) Letterboxd, another awesome film related site. In this case it seems to have the most accurate information on this film. The director is listed as Diana Cardozo. It was quite difficult to find any confirmation on this but it would seem she is indeed a female director. You’d think it was obvious from the name, but earlier this year I almost made a fool out of myself by adding this film directed by one Abby Berlin. It’s easy to get confused. Anyway, I happened to catch this film on MUBI, like so many of the films I’ve seen for this series. This one tells the story of a 40-something year old wallflower who lives together with her grandmother, a Serbian woman, in the early nineties. She (the grandmother) fled to Mexico during or after WW2. Now that the Balkan war is breaking out grandma is pulled back into the past. The war may not be in Mexico (Yugoslavia) yet, but it may – nay, will – come, so they’d better be prepared.

 

Merrily We Go to Hell CoverOriginal title: Merrily We Go to Hell
Rating: 5.8/10
Year: 1932
Directors: Dorothy Arzner
Duration: 78 min.
Genre: Romance, Drama, Comedy

I end the month with this little pre-code. It’s one that for one half I adored, and one half I hated. Quite strange, I usually like pre-codes for their boldness. The first half is funny, dialog is witty and acting is pretty great. It seems to be a romcom but it quickly becomes a romantic drama. A woman loving a man who keeps getting drunk, but she loves him anyway. The guy is likable enough when he’s drunk, which is weird and wrong, but that’s alright because the scenes are lovely and the chemistry between the actors is good. Sylvia Sidney was fantastic all throughout the film. However that is about the only good part about the second half, in my opinion. As in most films, you first have the happy phase, then the slow descent to oblivion, and finally they rise back up and kiss. Ta-da, the end! The main problem here is that this last bit is so ludicrous and offensive that I lost all interest. Comedy seems to take over from Drama again, and suddenly it is alright to cheat, to kiss other people right in front of each other and so on. It did not work for me at all. Too bad, because it is a well made film with a lot of good in it.

 

Lists!

They may take away our lives, but they’ll never take the list!

short: At Land:7.7 Stars (7.7 / 10)
short: Du côté de la côte:6.2 Stars (6.2 / 10)
short: Le lion volatil (Together with Documenteur):6.2 Stars (6.2 / 10)
shorts: Lotte Reiniger Fairy Tales 1-5:5.9 Stars (5.9 / 10)
shorts: Lotte Reiniger Fairy Tales 6-10:6.1 Stars (6.1 / 10)
Documenteur:6.8 Stars (6.8 / 10)
Indie Game: The Movie:7.2 Stars (7.2 / 10)
Longing for the Rain:6.0 Stars (6.0 / 10)
Manuela Jankovic's War:6.0 Stars (6.0 / 10)
Merrily We Go to Hell:5.8 Stars (5.8 / 10)
Outrage:6.9 Stars (6.9 / 10)
Summertime:7.4 Stars (7.4 / 10)
Testament:7.3 Stars (7.3 / 10)
The Bigamist:6.4 Stars (6.4 / 10)
The Dressmaker:7.4 Stars (7.4 / 10)
The Hurt Locker:7.8 Stars (7.8 / 10)
The Woman Condemned:5.1 Stars (5.1 / 10)
Three Cases of Murder (1st segment):7.2 Stars (7.2 / 10)
Thursday Till Sunday:5.9 Stars (5.9 / 10)
Triumph of the Will:5.6 Stars (5.6 / 10)
Wings:8.1 Stars (8.1 / 10)
Winter's Bone:6.8 Stars (6.8 / 10)

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