Directed &/or written by women, August 2016

Australian release dates.

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Films directed/co-directed by a woman opening in August 2016:

Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie directed by Mandie Fletcher, release date 4th of August (via Palace Cinemas)
Embrace directed by Tamyn Brumfitt, release date 4th of August (via Palace Cinemas)

There are also some films directed by women screening at Cine Latino Film Festival in August: Amor Etc., Hotel Nueva Isla, Solos.

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Films written/co-written by a woman opening in August 2016:

High-Rise written by Amy Jump (directed by Ben Wheatley), release date 18th of August (via Palace Cinemas)

Blood Father co-written by Andrea Berloff (directed by Jean-François Richet), release date 25th of August (via Palace Cinemas)

Nerve written by Jessica Sharzer (directed by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman), release date 27th of August (via Wallis Cinemas)

Check below for where the films are screening:

Palace Nova; Hoyts; Wallis; Greater Union; Capri Theatre; Odeon Star; The Regal Theatre/Trak Cinemas.

Mercury Cinema, while not like the other cinemas, sometimes has a couple of sessions of current releases. As always, I’m just one (forgetful and easily overwhelmed) person and can sometimes miss things so, please let me know if I have! I think doing these once a month means I sometimes miss films that pop up unexpectedly but I don’t think I could manage doing them more frequently, just yet.

Full list of films directed &/or written by women released in Australia 2016 | Full list of just the films directed by women

Note: information correct at time of publishing.

Advantageous, 2015

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Advantageous, directed by Jennifer Phang, is a quietly impactful film that has a lot to say about gender, ageism and race. It does this through the narrative of  main character, Gwen (Jacqueline Kim), a woman who is forced to go to drastic measures after she is fired from the Center For Advanced Living and Health, when they decide to go in a younger direction for their public face.

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Kim is magnificent as Gwen, giving a restrained, poignant performance, and it’s just a crime she’s not starring in more features. (Kim also co-wrote the script with director Jennifer Phang). Freya Adams, who plays Gwen 2.0, is convincing as a woman struggling to adjust to who she is, disconnected from everything and everyone around her, from her own body (which betrays her, causes her pain).

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It has a very touching mother/daughter relationship at its centre (Gwen is motivated by doing what’s best for her daughter’s future, wanting to secure her a position in an elite school), which will always draw me in. There are some achingly beautiful moments between Gwen and her daughter, Jules (Samantha Kim). They are the heart of the film. Family is a theme that runs through the story, as Gwen tries to reconnect with a cousin, wants her help so she will not have to go through with the procedure. She doesn’t get the help she wants when she needs it but the family does tentatively reconnect.

It’s slick and stylish and very understated in its vision of a dystopian future, using cool tones and lots of light to make the world outside feel sterile. Gwen and Jules’s apartment is snug and cosy, by contrast. I love my sci-fi (nearly) any way I can get it, but it’s quiet, thoughtful films like this that get under my skin and stay with me. Some of the points it makes are, perhaps, a little obvious but sometimes I think plain speak is better than a whole heap of metaphors and allusions.

There is hope in the ending, for Gwen and Jules and their family, at least, but the uneasiness that permeates the film is not resolved. It is still there in the others who have undergone the same procedure, if you think about the implications of being able to transfer consciousness from one body to another, discarding ‘undesirable’ bodies for more socially acceptable ones. It’s a terrifying thought.

It was released exclusively to Netflix, so if you have an account, definitely check it out. (I’m assuming it’s on Netflix in all regions).

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June 2016 Roundup

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Bits and bobs or things that made me happy:

-Just watching Eva Green doing anything makes me happy.

-The Wicked movie finally has a release date, for 2019. I’ve been waiting for this movie for years so this is exciting news (even if I have to wait a few more). (Warning for autoplay video in the linked article).

-This video compilation of censored scenes from silent movies is very cool.

Favourite June watches:

I only managed to watch 13 new to me movies in June (including one short film) – I spent more time watching Star Trek: The Next Generation and re-watching Haven than I did watching movies. Winter just seems like a time for TV shows, for some reason. Maybe because they’re easier to binge watch and I like spending a lot of time keeping warm on the sofa.

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My favourites of the 13 I did watch, though, were The Fall (pictured above), Advantageous and Mustang (pictured below). I wrote about The Fall here and Mustang here, and I’m planning on writing up a post on Advantageous soon, too.

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I also really enjoyed Bound, largely because it looks amazing, but also because it’s a pretty great film.

At the movies

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I saw two new releases at the cinema in June, Money Monster and Mustang, as well as two at the Essential Independents Festival, River of Grass (pictured above) and Yosemite. I just realised that all of them are directed by women!

Resolutions updates:
Watch more movies made by women.

I watched a total of nine movies directed by women in June, two of which were rewatches. Bound, Mustang and Advantageous (pictured below) were my favourites.

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As we’re halfway through the year, now, it’s probably a good time to check in on my progress for 52 Films by Women. I’m up to 50, with 39 first time watches and 11 rewatches. I think that’s a pretty good effort! I’ll definitely make the 52 films for the pledge, but I’m keen to see how many I can watch beyond that.

On the topic of women-directed films, I made a list of sci-fi, fantasy and related movies directed by women over at letterboxd. Suggestions are more than welcome.

First time watches: River of Grass, Yosemite, Bound, Money Monster, Hot Pursuit, Mustang, Advantageous

Rewatches: Bridget Jones’s Diary, The Decoy Bride

Watch more Australian films.

I watched a grand total of one entire Australian film in June! Admittedly, it’s better than no Australian films but I think I need to focus on watching and going to see Australian films more in the second half of the year. Anyway, I watched Mystery Road, which was quite nice, but required a lot of attention.

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Write more!

Didn’t do so well with this one in June.

The Fall, 2006

Mustang, 2015

June reading recommendations:

The Feminine Grotesque #10: Genre is a Woman and She Has Fangs – On ‘A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night’ at Vague Visages

Nothing about us without us – the reality of being a disabled actor at Little White Lies

Small Acts of Resistance: Mustang and the cinematic spaces of the sisterhood at Kill Your Darlings

Data Exposes Gender Fault Lines [INFOGRAPHIC] at Slated

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Directed &/or written by women, July 2016

Australian cinema release dates.

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Films directed/co-directed by a woman opening in July 2016:

Maggie’s Plan directed by Rebecca Miller, release date 7th of July (via Palace Cinemas)
Our Kind of Traitor directed by Susanna White, release date 14th of July (via Palace Cinemas)

There are also some films directed by women screening at the Scandinavian film festival at the end of July: Reindeer in my Saami Heart, A Holy Mess, Nice People, Comeback, The Idealist and The Together Project.

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Films written/co-written by a woman opening in July 2016:

Ghostbusters co-written by Katie Dippold (directed by Paul Feig), release date 14th of July (via Palace Cinemas)

Check below for where the films are screening:

Palace Nova; Hoyts; Wallis; Greater Union; Capri Theatre; Odeon Star; The Regal Theatre/Trak Cinemas.

As always, I’m just one (forgetful and easily overwhelmed) person and can sometimes miss things so, please let me know if I have! I think doing these once a month means I sometimes miss films that pop up unexpectedly but I don’t think I could manage doing them more frequently, just yet.

Note: information correct at time of publishing.

Mustang, 2015

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The spiritual cousin to The Virgin Suicides, Mustang, directed by Deniz Gamze Ergüven, is a stunning and haunting film that is currently my favourite release of the year. It takes place in a remote Turkish village and centres on the lives of five young sisters, who live with their grandmother, and the hurdles they face navigating life under the restrictive rules of patriarchy. At the beginning of the film the sisters are playing a game with some local boys, the consequences of which are dire and the catalyst for the rest of the movie: they are imprisoned in their own home, not even let out for school.

From here, the film is frustrating and freeing by turns as we see the girls rebelling, striving for freedom, but almost always thwarted by their family. It feels more like a series of vignettes, thread together both thematically and by pivoting around the sisters, than a traditional beginning, middle, end structure.

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The scenes of the girls playing, finding ways to entertain themselves (reminiscent of the previously mentioned The Virgin Suicides), protecting each other, growing frustrated with each other, and so on are lovely and very real. It is easy to empathise with the girls, not just because of the extremity of their situation, but because of the moments like these. All of the young actresses playing the sisters are fantastic, particularly Lale (Günes Sensoy).

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Unlike The Virgin Suicides, in Mustang we get very close to the sisters, we’re not removed by way of seeing them through someone else’s eyes. They’re not unsolvable mysteries here – they’re girls with all that entails. They’re real.

I like that some of the shocking moments and revelations play out offscreen or are just hinted at – it increases the uneasiness having to piece it together for yourself, having to speculate, think ‘is that what’s really happening?’ It also plays out this way because the film is largely seen from Lale’s point of view and so we are mostly privy to what she sees and hears. I wondered, at times, how much she understands, herself. (We do see scenes from other points of view, but not often).

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It does a good job of showing how sexualised girls’ bodies, girls’ actions, are, too. As previously mentioned, the girls are locked in their own home for playing a perfectly innocent game but, because they were sitting on boys’ shoulders, they are accused, among other things, of ‘pleasuring themselves’. The girls are mortified, indignant, at the accusation. It makes me think of all the times I’ve heard people say young girls shouldn’t wear certain clothes, shouldn’t dance certain ways, and so on, because they’re too ‘sexy’. How twisted is the world when it’s acceptable for adults to deem a child’s clothing or behaviour ‘sexy’ or sexual, often for the mere fact of her gender? But the film also shows that the girls don’t necessarily view their own bodies that way. For them, lounging in their underwear or bathers (as above) is just comfortable and playing a game is just playing a game. (Not to say that they are desexualised completely, either, but the point is still made that girls are sexualised, by the world outside, from a young age).

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I can’t write up a review without mentioning the cinematography and I have to say that it is breathtaking. I need to watch it again to appreciate it fully, as I had to concentrate on the subtitles, but it’s a beautifully photographed movie. There are a lot of tight shots of the girls together, highlighting their claustrophobic situation (both by being locked in literally by their family, and trapped by the rules of patriarchy) but it is not without breathing room.

The ending has been described as ‘too neat’ by some but after everything that happened in the film, it was more than welcome. I don’t want to give anything away, but it bothers me that hopeful endings are seen as unrealistic. I think they can be, but here it felt right and important (though it is not without its ambiguity, in my opinion). And it moved me, which is certainly not a bad thing.

If you haven’t seen Mustang, yet, it’s a must-see and currently screening in select cinemas around Australia.

 

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