52 Films By Women – January 2016


So #52FilmsByWomen is kind of a thing these days, and I approve. Instead of whining about #OscarsSoWhite or other such things why not put your money where your mouth is and actually do something about it? That’s what this thing going around Twitter and probably other social media too is all about. People pledge to watch one film directed by a woman each week for 52 weeks straight. Or more or less, on average, sort of. Anyway, while I certainly will not commit myself to anything I would like to see where this will take me. This past month I got to 4/52, so that puts me almost on track although I do have to admit I included a short. I’m not sure if that’s cheating or anything, but I like to think it’s the thought that counts, and not the duration.

One of the more difficult parts of this thing is to actually find films directed by women. There isn’t an overabundance of them and depending on where you live the available selection might be even smaller. Luckily the people on the interwebz have created many useful lists of resources or just lists of films. Quite a few of the oldies are in the public domain so they’re free to watch, Services like Netflix usually have a decent selection of new films and if you know where to look you can be old fashioned like me and buy some of those round shaped objects with a hole in the middle. To get started, here are a few links to some excellent lists of films:

For this post I used MUBI, Youtube and the Criterion Eclipse (A/1 region!) series. Preparation for February and onward includes buying a BFI DVD (B/2 region!) containing almost 20 shorts by Lotte Reiniger and more Youtube, MUBI, more MUBI and a disc of The Hurt Locker. Let’s see where that puts me in about four weeks time.

At Land CoverOriginal title: At Land
Year: 1944
Director: Maya Deren
Duration: 15 min.
Genres: Short, Avant-garde

Most people know Maya Deren for directing Meshes of the Afternoon, but I had already seen that several years ago. I thought it was great, but never really pursued any of her other work. Shame on me, I had been missing out as it so happens. At Land seems almost as confusing as Meshes, so I couldn’t tell you much about what it’s meant to be about. On the bright side it’s only 15 minutes long and freely available, so it’s probably best to decide for yourself. To me it’s very dreamlike and I can imagine someone like David Lynch pulled a lot of inspiration from this one and other Deren shorts. The video can be found all over Youtube with various soundtracks. Some very mimimalistic, some bombastic and some eerie. Take your pick and enjoy.

Wings (Krylya) CoverOriginal title: Wings (Krylya)
Year: 1966
Director: Larisa Shepitko
Duration: 85 min.
Genre: Drama

A few years ago I watched The Ascent and loved it. I finally got myself to watch the second film in this Eclipse series (see poster). Objectively speaking The Ascent is probably superior, but I think I liked Wings a little better. It tells the story of a retired Russian air force heroin. She’s now trying to find her way in normal life, but that’s not as easy as it may seem. It’s quite interesting to see a story like this through the eyes of a woman for a change. Usually it’s a fallen hero who has to get over himself and face the world. This time the general idea is the same, but there’s a heroin instead. Her normal, average and loveless life is beginning to take its toll – will she be able to cope with it? I think the powerful final moments of Wings will stick with me for some time, but really everything about the performance of Mayya Bulgakova – who plays the protagonist – is wonderful. It’s difficult to believe this was only Larisa Shepitko’s first film. Unfortunately she didn’t make very many because she was killed in a road accident at the early age of 41. Wings deserves a wider audience, and those who like an intense drama with quality acting should really look this one up asap!

Longing for the Rain (Chunmeng) CoverOriginal title: Longing for the Rain (Chunmeng)
Year: 2013
Director: Tian-yi Yang
Duration: 95 min.
Genres: Drama, Mystery

This one was a bit of an accident. I was scrolling through the MUBI app and I happened to like the picture. Click. The film is about a woman who seems to be in a nice relationship at first glance, but she’s not satisfied sexually. One day she dreams about a male presence and they have dreamsex or whatever. At times it seems like there’s a point to the story, but then you feel as if you’re watching some weird soft-p**n (I’m no prude, but I really prefer this does not get SEO-ed :-)). In the end I must conclude that this film had some potential, but that it was all over the place and too inconsistent to make it stick out as either good or bad. This will probably end up being one of those films you know you’ve watched by you have no idea what it was about. I’m not sure if watching this is going to make me want to see more from this director.

Three Cases of Murder (1st segment) CoverOriginal title: Three Cases of Murder (1st segment)
Year: 1955
Director: Wendy Toye
Duration: +-30 min.
Genres: Mystery, Thriller, Horror

Or One Case of Murder really. This is a film that consists of three separate stories about murder, each of them directed by someone else and with a different cast. The first piece is directed by Wendy Toye and so this is what I will be focussing on. The other two parts are of significantly lesser quality too if you ask me, so really this is all you need to see unless you want to see a trouserless Orson Welles party like it’s 1959. Okay.. you kind of want to see that too. The first story or segment is called “In the Picture”. For some reason they felt the need to have some random guy give a brief introduction to each case, and before the first segment starts he kindly warns us to expect some strange things. Thank goodness he did, because otherwise I may have believed there are actually people living inside paintings. What I liked about this short story is the somewhat lighthearted and absurdistic tone despite it being horror at heart. It’s British politeness combined with crazy killer madness. The end result is quite entertaining although not particularly scary or unsettling. The visuals to me were also the best. It has some nice framing here and there. I can recommend watching the first segment, but I wasn’t really feeling it for the other two.


And finally, because really really like lists, I added a list. Say ‘hello’ to my little list!

short: At Land:7.7 out of 10 stars (7.7 / 10)
Longing for the Rain:6 out of 10 stars (6.0 / 10)
Three Cases of Murder (1st segment):7.5 out of 10 stars (7.5 / 10)
Wings:8.1 out of 10 stars (8.1 / 10)

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