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.

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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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The Fall, 2006

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Tarsem Singh’s second feature, The Fall (2006), is the third of his films I’ve seen to date and it is undoubtedly the best. While I love Immortals (2011) for its impressive visuals and beautiful cast, and Mirror Mirror (2012) for its fun, sweet atmosphere and charming leads, The Fall is everything I loved about the other two films and more. They are all, though, fresh and interesting takes on familiar stories and genres.

Filmed over four years and in more than twenty different countries, The Fall is undoubtedly a passion project (apparently largely funded by Singh himself) and it is certainly shows.

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The story takes place in a hospital in Los Angeles (‘once upon a time’), and centres on Alexandria (Catinca Untaru), a young girl who has broken her arm and Roy (Lee Pace) a heartbroken, stuntman who is befriended by Alexandria. Roy begins to tell Alexandria the story of a group of bandits, who are brought together by their combined desire to kill the evil Governor Odious. It incorporates fantasy and reality, by way of the story Roy tells Alexandria. As the story and the film progress, fantasy and reality start to blur, largely due to Alexandria’s own imagination.

The opening sequence, a slow motion silent movie stunt shot in black and white and scored by Beethoven’s 7th Symphony, is gorgeous and had me captivated straight away.

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It’s more emotionally engaging than his other films, as well, due in large part to Lee Pace’s moving portrayal of heartbroken Roy and the absolutely enchanting Alexandria. There are some really lovely moments between them and their interactions are very natural. (Apparently most of Untaru’s dialogue was unscripted, and her reactions real, which I had wondered while watching the film).

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It looks breathtaking. Singh’s visual style is always something to marvel at but it is at its best here where there is more space for it to work. In some instances, this is quite literal, with many wide shots of landscapes and architecture, some of which take on the qualities of a flat textured painting. By comparison, his other films seem claustrophobic (though no less stunning).

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All three of Singh’s films I’ve seen have had costumes designed by the late Eiko Ishioka (you can see more about the costumes of Immortals and Mirror Mirror in this post). Has there ever been another costume designer quite like Ishioka? Her synthesis of influences (from Byzantine, to Japanese dress, and more) always resulted in beautiful, unique creations. I love how sculptural a lot of her work was, too.

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Masks and veils are prominently featured in this film, highlighting what Roy is hiding from Alexandria, the assumed deception of his once girlfriend as well as what we all hide from each other and ourselves. They are also just very striking.

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The Fall is a very moving, gorgeous, funny film that I look forward to revisiting. It took me a long time to get around to watching it and I’m more than glad I finally did.

May 2016 Roundup

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Bits and bobs or things that made me happy:

-First clips from Xavier Dolan’s It’s Only the End of the World (Juste la fin du monde) have appeared and I’m looking forward to it more than ever. I still have a couple of Dolan’s films to catch up on but he’s definitely one of my favourite filmmakers working today.

-The news of a Harley Quinn movie, which will be a showcase for DC’s female heroes and villains, made me very happy indeed.

-The Craft 2 will take place 20 years after the original – it’s not a remake or a reboot! Huzzah!

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-This cast photo that Patty Jenkins posted to mark end of production on Wonder Woman. Have I mentioned how excited I am for this movie?

-Geena Davis staged a mini A League of Their Own reunion as part of the Bentonville Film Festival.

Favourite May watches:

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I watched some very good films in May but I think my two favourites were Crimson Peak (pictured above)and Strange Days (pictured below). I’ve already written about Crimson Peak on here, and I dashed off a few thoughts on Strange Days on letterboxd.

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I also really enjoyed finally watching the Peter Ustinov Poirot films! (Death on the Nile pictured below). I’m a big fan of murder mysteries and have re-watched (and re-watched and re-watched) the Suchet series many times, so it was nice to see some of the same stories in a slightly different way. I’d seen bits and pieces before but never watched them the whole way through. Lots of great costumes, too.

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At the movies

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I thought I’d start including a section for what I went out to see at the cinema. It’s probably not necessary but, as it’s my roundup, I figured why not? If I don’t like it I’ll take it out next month.

I made three trips to the cinema in May, to see: Eddie the Eagle, A Month of Sundays and Hunt for the Wilderpeople (pictured above). The latter was definitely the best but I enjoyed the other two very much, as well. Hunt for the Wilderpeople was actually my 100th new to me movie for the year! A very good film to mark that milestone, I must say.

There were a few I still didn’t manage to see, like The Daughter and The Meddler. I’m hoping to see The Daughter at the Mercury Cinema in a couple of weeks, though. I really don’t want to miss it. I don’t want to miss The Meddler, either, but it’s only on once a day now and it all depends on if I managed to get to the cinema before it ends.

Resolutions updates:
Watch more movies made by women.

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I did a really good job with this one in May! In total (including rewatches), I watched nine movies directed by women. My favourite was a three way tie between Strange Days, Bride and Prejudice (pictured above)and South Solitary. Bride and Prejudice was a whole lot of fun! I keep telling myself I hate rom-coms and, yet, I seem to like nearly every one I watch. Hmmm.

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First time watches: Strange Days, Step Up, Punisher: War Zone, Bride and Prejudice, South Solitary, Girlfight.

Rewatches: D.E.B.S., Little Women, Mansfield Park (pictured above).

Watch more Australian films.

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Only two Australian films made it into my May watches: South Solitary (pictured above) and A Month of Sundays (pictured below). I absolutely adored South Solitary, as I covered in the review I posted and A Month of Sundays was just as good as I was hoping it would be. I love Anthony LaPaglia and I have to admit that it’s very nice to see Adelaide onscreen as Adelaide, instead of Sydney or Melbourne or somewhere else.

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Write more!

Last month I said I was going to take this section out. For now, I think I’ll use it to post links to what I wrote during May, in case anyone missed something (not including the previous month’s roundup post). This is only my movie-related writing.

Little Shop of Horrors, Director’s Cut

Crimson Peak, 2015

South Solitary, 2010

Directed &/or written by women, June 2016

Reviews on letterboxd

May reading recommendations:

How Hollywood Judges Its Childless Female Characters at Film School Rejects

One female director in DGA’s poll of 80 best films at The Guardian

My Father, Woody Allen, and the Danger of Questions Unasked at The Hollywood Reporter

Get in the Picture: My Adventures in Correcting Yellowface at Home Made Mimi

In a Lonely Place: An Epitaph for Love at Criterion

The Dudeocracy of Film Writers at Women and Hollywood

Made in New York: An Interview With Amy Heckerling at Criterion

Asian-American Actors Are Fighting for Visibility. They Will Not Be Ignored. at The New York Times

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