Directed &/or written by women, March 2016

A couple of little changes: I’ve decided not to include Cinematheque screenings anymore and for one-off/festival screenings I’ll only be adding films to the directed/co-directed category but not the written/co-written. So, here are 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 March 2016:

Miracles From Heaven directed by Patricia Riggen, release date 17th of March 2016

Kung Fu Panda 3 co-directed by Jennifer Yuh (and Alessandro Carloni), release date 24th of March 2016

Sherpa written and directed by Jennifer Peedom, release date 31st of March 2016*

Dark Horse directed by Louise Osmond will be showing at The Sunday Sessions on the 20th of March

*This was included in last month’s post, but then it disappeared from the Palace Nova site. I suppose its release was postponed.

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

London Has Fallen co-written by Katrin Benedikt (directed by Babak Najafi), release date 17th of March 2016

Kapoor and Sons co-written by Ayesha DeVitre (directed by Shakun Batra), release date 18th of March 2016*

My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 written by Nia Vardalos (directed by Kirk Jones), release date 24th of March 2016

Labyrinth of Lies co-written by Elisabeth Bartel (directed by Giulio Ricciarelli), release date 31st of March 2016

*Couldn’t tell if this was a limited release.

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At the French Film Festival in March/April*:

Bang Gang (Un histoire d’amour moderne) directed by Eva Husson

La Belle Saison directed by Catherine Corsini

Lolo directed by Julie Delpy

Love at First Child (Ange et Gabrielle) directed by Anne Giafferi

Mon Roi directed by Maïwenn

 

*As the festival is moving around the country during March and April, I have added all the women-directed features in the March post. I’ve also linked the movies to their pages on the festival site, instead of IMDB. (If I missed any because I mistook names for a different gender, feel free to point this out).

Check below for where the films are screening:

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

Also, I’m just one (forgetful and easily overwhelmed) person and can sometimes miss things so, as always, please let me know if I have!

Note: information correct at time of publishing.

Peau d’Âne (Donkey Skin), 1970

I’ve had a Jacques Demy boxset sitting on my ‘to watch’ shelf for some years. I don’t remember where or when I bought it (I remember why, obviously: I wanted to watch the films) but I know it’s been sitting there for far too long (though not as long as others have). Recently, I decided it was about time I cracked it open. The last I watched, Peau d’Âne (Donkey Skin), turned out to be my favourite, which I hadn’t expected at all. I’d thought I’d probably enjoy it, but prefer either Les Parapluies de Cherbourg (The Umbrellas of Cherbourg) or Les Demoiselles de Rochefort (The Young Girls of Rochefort). But Donkey Skin it was! I feel like I’m in the minority, here, though.

It’s such a strange fairy tale to start with (I was familiar with the story, by Charles Perrault, before ever knowing of the film) and this adaptation fully embraces the absurdity. For those who don’t know, it’s basically about a king who decides he wants to marry his daughter (he had promised his wife, on her death bed, to not marry again unless it was to someone more beautiful than she) and so the princess ends up disguising herself in a donkey pelt and running away. (More or less).

030-donkey-skin-theredlistIt’s been described as part fairytale satire, and largely referencing Cocteau (apparently, I’m ashamed to admit to never having seen any of Cocteau’s films) yet still a fairytale film on its own. I feel this is apt. (You know, despite not having seen any of Cocteau’s films – I absolutely, certainly will at some point).

But, first, let’s talk costumes and sets, because they’re always what I notice first and think of the most. In terms of sets and set dressing, things that particularly caught my eye: Deneuve’s bed that looks like a meadow, living statues, the throne in the form of a gigantic white cat, the Lilac Fairy’s outdoors vanity and the touches of glam in Donkey Skin’s ramshackle cabin.

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New life goal: acquire cat shaped throne.

And then, to costumes, all of those dresses! My gosh. They’d be beautiful enough without the ‘gimmicks’ but they become ultra dazzling with clouds projected on them or luminous spots. It’s all very dreamy and whimsical. And even dressed like a donkey, Deneuve is radiant.

Wearing the skin of an ass. Still beautiful.

Wearing the skin of an ass. Still beautiful.

The Lilac Fairy was fantastic, too. Not least because of her Endora-esque costumes.

av7m8xr1_n0g28lThe playful poking of fun at fairy tale films was diverting, and I think most noticeable with the prince. The scene where he demands that all the maidens of the kingdom be rounded up to find the one girl who fits the ring, even though he obviously knows it belongs to Donkey Skin, highlights the absurdity of fairytale rituals and the almost capricious nature of the prince. I mean, I’m fairly certain that he’s also manipulating his parents, so they’ll let him marry Donkey Skin, but geez!

ecran8I hadn’t realised until I finished the film, but the princess/Donkey Skin becomes more interesting when she’s wearing the pelt than when she’s in the garb of her ‘true’ self (although her task setting for the king, under the intstruction of the Lilac Fairy is fun to watch, she seems more passive in her role as princess). I wonder if this is a pointed comment on the blandness of fairy tale princesses in many films or if I somehow related to her more as Donkey Skin. (Wonder if that’s something to worry about? Ha.)

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Oh, and the musical numbers were delightful! I especially enjoyed the song the Lilac Fairy sings about children not marrying their parents and the one about baking a cake. So strange, yet such fun. (I think that describes the film, on a whole, pretty well.)

Disjointed review aside, let’s leave it with saying I enjoyed this film immensely. I admit, the helicopter at the end had me stumped, though.

Within the past year (or so) I’ve watched maybe 4 European fairytale films and I think I want to watch more. Actually, I think I just want to watch more non-Disney fairytale films especially ones that embrace the strangeness of these stories. Any recommendations are most welcome.

Girlhood/Bande de Filles (2014)

!!!girlhoodThere will probably be spoilers in my rambling thoughts below.

Another film that’s been on my ‘must see’ list was Girlhood aka Bande de Filles and I was lucky enough to get to see it at the French Film Festival, a little while ago,. If you get a chance to see this film: go see it. This film is so important. It doesn’t take a lot of pointing out to realise that (western) depicitions of ‘girlhood’ are overwhelmingly white (and cis, straight, etc.), reflecting only a small portion of girls’ lives. This is a point that has come up a lot in my interactions online (mainly tumblr) as well as being made by several authors when I was researching my thesis (it was on girlhood in photography and cinema).

That’s why the film Girlhood, directed by Céline Sciamma, is so important. How many films centre on a black girl, versus the amount centring on a white girl? How many are cast entirely of black girls? And, yes, while there are fights between them, the strength of the friendship between Vic (the nickname given to Marieme), Lady, Adiatou & Fily, and the support they offer each other is profound. While it doesn’t have the same lightheartedness as, say, Clueless or Mean Girls (which do tackle some serious topics but in a much more ‘feel good’ way) it wasn’t the depressing feature I feared it may be. There is a lot of levity to balance the dark topics (like domestic abuse, gang violence, drugs, etc.), mostly seen in scenes with Vic and her friends doing regular teenage stuff. They dance and sing along to Rihanna (one of the most beautiful scenes in the whole film), have dance-offs, play mini-golf, go shopping etc. It is seriously gorgeous. Not just in the way it is filmed (because the cinematography is stunning) but because so many scenes left me grinning ear to ear with glee.

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As I mentioned, it does address some less easy to watch topics – domestic abuse, (gang) violence, bullying, drugs, etc. – through what Vic experiences in her own life. We see how the violence of her older brother has affected her, not just by making her wary of him, but in the violence she, herself, exhibits toward others. But we also see how this troubles her. Mariema aka Vic may feel helpless at times but she is also shown as in control in many scenes, best illustrated when she decides to have sex with her boyfriend – everything that we see happen is on her terms.

I thought it touched on some interesting things about gender, too, but only very briefly. (If you’ve seen it, you may know what I mean near the end – I’d love to talk more about that). Racism was addressed in the one interaction Vic and her friends had with a white person (also the only one with a speaking role, from memory) where the shop clerk starts following her around the shop. But the dominant theme, or at least the majority of screentime, was focussed on Vic and her (girl)friends. They were funny and smart and beautiful and all a joy to watch. There was conflict within the group but they were there for each other in their struggles.

My only issue with the film was that the ending was quite abrupt. I enjoy an open-ended ending but I felt like the last little bit of this film was rushed but not so much so that it detracted from the feature as a whole.

It is a pity that the film doesn’t seem to have a very wide release internationally (though correct me if I’m wrong) because it deserves to be seen by as many people as possible. It’s certainly not the best film I’ve seen, objectively speaking, but for the reasons I’ve said it’s a very important film and I hope we get more like it. Where black girls or other girls of colour don’t have to be the (token) best friend to a white girl in order to exist onscreen. I hope it’s not too long before this spills over more and more into mainstream cinema (this is one of the reasons I supported the remake of Annie) and gains momentum rather than to fall away again as it has before. I don’t believe people should have to put so much effort into seeking out films where they are not only represented but represented in lead roles. Or in every role. To be represented as multi-faceted people and not always relegated to stereotyped or narrow roles.

I know I’m getting away from the film to sort of get on my soapbox here but films like this are what I want to be seeing more of. What we need to see more of. I know it’s a complex issue, especially when it comes to studios and what-not (I was going to ponder the differences between French cinema and Hollywood but I feel they may be similar in terms of representation). I also know I’m not the first person to talk about this but films like this give me hope, at least. So, if you can support it, then do so! It’s worth it.