52 Films By Women – March

Signed up in January for Women In Film’s pledge to watch at least one film helmed by a female director per week. You can do so here if you want to take part. 52 Films By Women

I am going to try and see a new film by a female director every week, but I will occasionally revisit films I haven’t seen in a while, or personal favourites. This month’s films are all first time watches.

9) Jane. B (1987, Agnès Varda)

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Varda’s inventive and unconventional biography of 60s’ icon Jane Birkin. Though there is documentary footage and interviews with Birkin talking about her life and career most of the film involves them inventing scenarios they would like to see on film. Birkin dressed up as Stan Laurel, or on a picnic with French New Wave poster boy Jean-Pierre Léaud. It’s more of a collaboration than a director/subject relationship with both women inspiring each other creatively.

10) Wildflowers (1999, Melissa Painters)

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Affecting small-town coming-of-age story set in the 1980’s and starring Clea Duvall as a teenager who befriends the older woman (Daryl Hannah) she believes is the mother who abandoned her when she was a baby. Hannah is a hippyish free-spirit who once ran with a counter-culture group in the 60s’ and still refuses to settle down. Eric Roberts in one of his more restrained performances turns up as the ex-lover she left to rot in a prison when things went awry. It’s dreamy and impressionistic in that late 90s’ early 00s’ Indie film way, but it has a feel for lost summers and the intensity of youth.

11) Middle of Nowhere (2012, Ava DuVernay)

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Thoughtful drama from Selma director Ava DuVernay about promising young med student Ruby (Emayatzy Corinealdi) putting her life on hold while her husband is in jail. Personally I’m with the mother (Lorraine Toussaint) who scolds her for wasting time on a deadbeat, but she remains loyal to him and DuVenray’s film is about the strength needed to make that decision however misguided it may be. Especially if David Oyelowo is hanging around waiting in the background.

12) Leaning Towards Solace (2012, Flora Sigismondi)

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Wonderful short film developed by the band Sigur Ros and directed by Floria Sigismondi who made the rock biopic The Runaways (2010). John Hawkes wanders through a dead-end town, drinks a little too much, and delivers a voice-over about the daughter (Elle Fanning) he feels he has somehow failed, while she follows after him performing ballet in an outfit topped off with angel wings. Monologues about parenthood, ethereal music, walking through a barren landscape, religiosity, Leaning Towards Solace does everything a late period Terrence Malick movie does but in 12 minutes.

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52 Films by Women – February

Signed up in January for Women In Film’s pledge to watch at least one film helmed by a female director per week. You can do so here if you want to take part. 52 Films By Women

I am going to try and see a new film by a female director every week, but I will occasionally revisit films I haven’t seen in a while, or personal favourites

This month’s films are all first time watches.

5) A New Leaf (1971, Elaine May)

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Wonderfully dark comedy about dissolute rich man Henry (Walter Matthau) who is surprised to find he has spent the entirety of his fortune and resolves to marry a rich woman then dispose of her. Socially awkward botanist Henrietta (May) seems like the perfect victim but his murderous intentions give way to affection and he finds himself falling in love despite his better instincts. Apparently May fell out with the producers over the final cut and the version released does not match her intended vision which was much darker and went after her targets of marriage and the lifestyles of the affluent with much more savagery. It’s still a remarkable film though, hilarious yet melancholic, and in it’s own offbeat way a love story.

6) A Second Chance (2013, Susanne Bier)

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Keen admirer of Susanne Bier (Open Hearts is one of the few really great Dogma movies) but I struggled with this. Grieving cop Andreas (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) is so appalled at the neglect shown by a junkie couple towards their baby he steals the child to raise as his own. It’s a mixture of gritty social realism and melodrama with decent performances from Coster-Waldau and Ulrich Thomsen as his world-weary partner but Bier’s made better films. Also been watching Bier’s impressive adaptation of John Le Carre’s spy novel The Night Manager for the BBC and if there’s any justice she’ll be Eon Productions first choice to direct the next James Bond film.

7) Belle (2013, Amma Asante)

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Understated and moving British costume drama written by Misan Sagay about the struggle of an illegitimate mixed-race aristocrat to be fully accepted into her own family. While her guardian Lord Chief Justice Mansfield (Tom Wilkinson) feels he is acting in her best interests by keeping her shielded from society Belle (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) wants the opportunities afforded to her as part of her birthright. Mansfield, a pragmatic Scot (though Wilkinson drops the accent), feels allowing Belle to attend society events would diminish the family’s standing. The main focus of the action is Belle’s desire to find a place in her world a notorious horrific tragedy haunts the film, an event known as the Zong massacre in which slaves were thrown overboard so a ship’s owners could claim the insurance. Belle that rarest of things, a great British movie and so confidently directed by Asante I wish she was at the helm of In The Heart of the Sea (2015, Ron Howard). Still, if there’s any Robert Louis Stevenson adaptations kicking around Hollywood they know who to call.

8) A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night (2014, Ana Lily Amirpour)

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Promising debut from Iranian/American director set in a fictional city which seems to be a dead-end town for vampires. Like early Wim Wenders movies it’s a love letter to American cinema and a little too artful for its own good but I’m very interested to see what the director does next.