Directed &/or written by women, February 2016

To follow on from last month, here’s the releases for February (Australian release dates) that are directed &/or written by women. (Including co-directed and co-written).

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

The 33 directed by Patricia Riggen, release date 4th of February 2016

Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict directed (& co-written) by Lisa Immordino Vreeland, release date 18th of Febraury 2016

Sherpa written and directed by Jennifer Peedom, release date 25th of February 2016

One-off screenings

Love is All directed by Kim Longinotto, showing at Mercury Sunday Sessions of the 14th of February 2016

Another Country directed by Molly Reynolds, showing at Mercury Sunday Sessions on the 28th of February 2016

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

How to be Single co-written by Dana Fox and Abby Kohn (directed by Christian Ritter), release date 18th of February 2016

Son of Saul co-written by Clara Royer, release date 25th of February 2016

One-off screenings

Man Up written by Tess Morris (directed by Ben Palmer), showing at Mercury Sunday Sessions on the 14th of February 2016

Rangle River co-written by Elsa Chauvel (directed by Clarence C. Badger) showing as part of Cinematheque’s Ranch Nights (you need at least a four session pass for these films)

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Check below for where the films are screening:

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

Once again, I’ve mostly checked Adelaide cinemas – sometimes other states get different films, so apologies if I’ve missed anything. If anyone wants to help me out with screenings from other states, including festivals, I’d really appreciate any suggestions to add! Also, I’m not sure if it’s necessary to include written/co-written films for the Cinematheque sessions.

Note: information correct at time of publishing.

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Designer Spotlight: Colleen Atwood

Picture heavy post.

Time for the (very overdue) second post in my designer spotlight series! This time I am focusing on Colleen Atwood. It was hard not to just post costumes from all the Tim Burton films she’s worked on, because their collaborations are always stunning, but I managed to pick just two Burton films for this post. I’ve mostly looked at one costume per film to keep it brief(ish). This post will be just as picture heavy, but may be a little lighter on text than the last one as I’m very tired today.

titleColleen Atwood, b. 1948 in Washington, has been working in movies since the early 1980s. She has been nominated eleven times for an Academy Award and has won three times, including for Chicago (2002), which is one of my personal favourites. Her filmography is extensive and includes many of my favourite film costume moments.

1ItW_04771ItW_00581ItW_0476I’m going to work backwards, chronologically, through the five films I’ve chosen, starting with Into the Woods. All of the costumes in Into the Woods are gorgeous and evocative but it’s no surprise that Little Red Riding Hood’s costume caught my eye the most. (I also love the wolf’s zoot suit, reminiscent of the wolves in Tex Avery cartoons). Red and light blue is one of my favourite colour combinations and the contrast between the puff-sleeved dress and cape is particularly striking (especially against the darkness of the woods). You can just see some of the details on the hood in the middle image, above, like the cutout designs and soft scalloping around the edge.

1ItW_05211ItW_0536I love the smocking and Peter Pan collar. It reminds me a lot of vintage little girls’ dresses from the 30s-50s, which I’ve always found to be very sweet and charming.

Snow_White_and_the_Huntsman_2012_EXTENDED_720p_BRRip_x264_AC3-JYK_0183Snow_White_and_the_Huntsman_2012_EXTENDED_720p_BRRip_x264_AC3-JYK_0172Snow_White_and_the_Huntsman_2012_EXTENDED_720p_BRRip_x264_AC3-JYK_0170Next is Snow White and the Huntsman. While I adore the redesign of Snow White’s look into something quite practical, it’s Ravenna (Charlize Theron) who wears the most elaborate and fun costumes. I absolutely adore her wedding gown, with the skeletal-like cage around her shoulders. While the costume is undoubtedly beautiful, I like that it’s not soft as we usually think wedding gowns should be. It hints at Ravenna’s journey and nature that we see revealed. In an interview, Atwood says ‘there’s always an element of trapped death in her costumes, such as the skeletal cage around her shoulders in her wedding costume.’
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Miss Julie, 2014 (52 Films by Women #5)

Image of Jessica Chastain as Miss Julie sitting on Colin Farrell as John's lap. Miss Julie is a redhead woman in blue dress with a scoop neck. Colin Farrell is a dark-haired man wearing a tan waistcoat and white shirt. They are sitting on a chair in a 19th century kitchen in front of a lit stove.I’m falling a little behind on these write-ups but number 5 for 52 Films by Women was Miss Julie directed by Liv Ullmann. Miss Julie, based on the play by August Strindberg, takes place over the course of one night (Midsummer Night’s Eve), and has only three characters: the titular Miss Julie played by Jessica Chastain; John played by Colin Farrell and Kathleen played by Samantha Morton. This adaptation sees the story set in Ireland, rather than Sweden.

Movie still showing three people standing in a 19th century kitchen - the view shows a cabinet on the left, a doorway in the middle. The first person, a woman, is wearing a white apron and has her hands folded. The second person has her back to the camera, wearing a blue velvet jacket. The third man is wearing a waistcoat and white shirt, his hands behind his back.Class, power and social structures (and how they are changing) are explored through the emotional monologues of the three characters. The most interesting aspect is undoubtedly the raw and intense acting, and I think it will be too ‘slow’ for anyone not invested in that.

Movies like this can be hit or miss for me, but I found Miss Julie engaging because of the excellent performances from Samantha Morton, Colin Farrell and especially Jessica Chastain. It was emotionally draining just to watch Chastain’s performance – I can’t imagine what the experience would’ve been like for her, bringing up all that turmoil and agony. Even at the beginning when there is an almost playfulness (maybe) to her actions, her pain is quick to surface in between when we see tears come to her eyes.

I know pretty much nothing about the play (except what I’ve now read on Wikipedia), but that’s hardly surprising given my knowledge of theatre is limited to the musical variety. It does still have much of the feel of a stage play, rather than being cinematic, but that doesn’t bother me (mostly because of the performances, but also because that never bothers me much). I’ve seen it described as claustrophobic but it didn’t feel that way to me.

A closely cropped movie still showing Colin Farrell and Jessica Chastain from the side. They both have their eyes closed and strands of hair hanging in their faces.The first thing that struck me, though, was the way it looked. The cinematography is quite static in contrast to the tumultuous emotions expressed by the characters. There are a lot of airy, beautifully lit shots. It’s just gorgeous to look at in general. I particularly liked when there was a mixture of colours on the actors’ faces – the blue of natural light from outside, mixed with the yellow of candlelight. You can see this in the photo above.

The quality of light in this film just kills me. It’s so clear. And it really does give the feeling of an airy house with huge windows letting in all that gorgeous natural light.

A close-up still of Jessica Chastain. Her shoulders and head are visible, and her red hair is pulled back with tendrils around her face. There is a shallow depth of field so only she is in focus.It may sound cliched and a little obvious as it’s said about many redheads, but there is something of a Pre-Raphaelite model about Chastain. That last shot of her definitely put me in mind of Millais’ Ophelia.

It’s quite different from most period dramas I’ve seen; it’s a heavy film and I did need some breaks but it’s definitely worth watching.

Screencaps from here.

The picture below contains a spoiler for the ending but the play was written over 100 years ago, so I’m including it. I wanted to show what I meant about the painting comparison.

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The Bling Ring/Om Shanti Om (52 Films by Women #3 and #4)

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The Bling Ring, directed by Sofia Coppola, was the third film I watched for 52 Films by Women. I had meant to see The Bling Ring when it was out at the cinema as Sofia Coppola’s films have always interested me but I never got around to it. I love Coppola’s aesthetic(s) and the worlds she creates.

This is not a perfect film, but there’s so much to enjoy here that it overrides any flaws. The young cast is very good, particularly Katie Chang and Israel Broussard as Rebecca and Marc.

I was totally captivated by their escapades with and without the rest of the eponymous ‘Bling Ring’, and was a bit anxious waiting for them to get found out. It made me think of how easily I can get caught up in the cult of celebrity, myself. (Though definitely not to the same extent).

The Bling Ring is a stylish, fun film and I can definitely see myself revisiting it at some point. Maybe I’ll have a Sofia Coppola marathon, one day.

om-shanti-om1The fourth film I watched was Om Shanti Om, directed by Farah Khan. I haven’t seen many Bollywood films – I think this makes number 3 in total – but I’ve loved the ones I have seen including this.

Om Shanti Om is so infectious. I really got swept up by the songs and acting and sets. It’s very easy to become emotional when watching this.

Even without much frame of reference, I could tell that it both pays tribute to and pokes fun at the Bollywood industry, while it tells the epic tale of love, reincarnation and revenge.

I liked the whole cast but Deepika Padukone was particularly charming as both Shanti and Sandy. Shah Rukh Khan was very funny as Om, too.

It’s left me wanting to see many more Bollywood films! (Recommendations are welcome).

Texas Killing Fields, 2011 (52 films by women #2)

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The second cab off the rank for 52 Films by Women was Texas Killing Fields, directed by Ami Canaan Mann. I mainly watched this because I wanted to see if Stan had any other films that Jessica Chastain has been in when I saw they added A Most Violent Year and I think this was all that popped up. When I noticed it was directed by a woman, too, I added it to my watchlist. I tend to not write up blurbs for my reviews, but you can take a look at what it’s about over on IMDB.

I don’t want to write much because I prefer writing about films that I liked on here, but I’ve made it a goal to write about each of the films I’ve watched for 52 films by women, so I’ll give it a go.

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I’ve seen far worse films but to be frank this isn’t great. It’s murky and difficult to follow at times; I found myself losing concentration very easily as the film went on. The mystery itself – who the ‘bad guys’ were, so to speak – was easy to figure out, though.

The most interesting character was easily Ann, a neglected teen, played by Chloe Grace Moretz. I think if the film had focussed more on her, cut out Sam Worthington’s character and had Jessica Chastain play Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s partner, it would’ve been a lot more interesting and less scattered.

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I don’t have a lot more to say than what I posted on letterboxd, so I’ll copy/paste that: I’ve always thought Jeffrey Dean Morgan has nice screen presence, or maybe just a nice face. Sam Worthington’s character was a total dropkick, and macho guy caricature. Chloe Grace Moretz did pretty well with not much. And there was nowhere near enough Jessica Chastain.

It’s a pity that it doesn’t pull together better because it’s really quite nice to look at, the premise has a lot of potential and it’s got more than a decent cast. It wasn’t so bad that it made me angry – in fact, I don’t have particularly strong feelings about this film one way or the other – but I didn’t get a lot out of it. All in all, I’d say this is of interest for die-hard fans of the genre or of any of the actors (if you’re a completist like I try to be), otherwise it’s probably not going to be particularly enjoyable. But if it’s been on your radar, don’t let me deter you – I’m a firm believer in watching films to form your own opinion, no matter what anyone else has said.

Up next is The Bling Ring by Sofia Coppola, so keep an eye out for that!