These 100 Films Made By Women (in 20 parts) might not be the all-time greatest films that women have directed, might not be Oscar winners, or being talked about in coffee shops – but every single one is essential. These women scream loud, stand tall, and you will find they are making / have made better, more important movies than a lot of the mediocre you are fed. Here are 5 more:
Thirteen (2003) – Catherine Hardwicke — Robin Write @WriteoutofLA
Many years before Catherine Hardwicke and Nikki Reed worked together on Twilight, having known each other since Reed was knee high to a grasshopper, they ventured together on a screenplay that would far exceed their future projects. At least that’s what I think. Thirteen tackles the brutal truth of irrational, transforming teenage girls not afraid of trouble or breaking the rules. Directing the screenplay in a similarly fractious way, Hardwicke executes a compelling and frantic chunk of teenage life before our eyes. She never shies away from the more delicate issues of self-harm, hostilities towards parents, drug use, sex, and Hardwicke drags you around the turmoil and adventures like you have no choice. The movie also packs a punch with jittering camera and editing, a ferociously appropriate soundtrack, and some terrific acting. The real cherry on the top being Evan Rachel Wood, unleashing everything she has to show the rough edges of pleasure and pain teenagers believe they have. Hardwicke’s super-angsty, fragile teenagers here turned inside out are far more alarming and engrossing than her subsequent, flimsy young vampires ever were.
Titus (1999) – Julie Taymor — Steve Schweighofer @banjoonthecrag
Julie Taymor’s love of the theatrical is well-known, for better or worse, so when she takes on one of Shakespeare’s least popular and bleak plays, Titus Andronicus, she manages to inject it with considerable glee. On the page, the play is text-heavy and dark – if ever there was a Shakespeare work in need of modern subtitles, Titus Andronicus is it – but by way of Taymor’s considerable skill with visuals and movement, it becomes almost playful Grand Guignol fare of the sort that has entertained audiences from medieval puppetry smackdowns to Saw. Great, go-for-broke performances by Anthony Hopkins in the title role that would appall Sweeny Todd, and, especially, Jessica Lange as Tamora, the very horny Queen of the Goths. Sex, violence, vivisection, nudity, torture and cannibalism – all set in iambic pentameter with choreographed marching, jaw-dropping sets and costumes, and imagination sequences only Julie Taymor could come up with. Will Shakespeare knew how to please the cheap seats 16th Century horror fans; this time around, though, it’s Taymor who turns it into art.
Citizenfour (2014) – Laura Poitras — Robin Write @WriteoutofLA
You kind of pay attention when intelligence agencies, and the National Security Agency (NSA), are revealed to be taking part in some rather unethical practices. Like it or not, this kind of effectual citing is like glue to the mind. Citizenfour dives straight into this, a documentary taking large chunks of it’s time in an interview far off in Hong Kong with a so-called whistle-blower for the time being shutting himself away from the world – including his nearest and dearest. Why? He has information about the whole access to information scandal that would land him in hot water too. Am I saying too much? Journalist Glenn Greenwald is at the center of reporting this back out to the world, a task I could have perhaps admired much more were I not still haunted by his more abstract and damaging involvement in the Zero Dark Thirty torture mud-throwing. Regardless, Citizenfour does have it’s fair share of blatant manipulative angles, as do many documentaries, but it is hard not to be compelled and intrigued by the direct involvement of director Laura Poitras and Edward Snowden, behind and in front of the camera respectively. It unravels quickly into something relevant, something worthy of attention, whichever side of the fence you sit.
Rosa Luxemburg (1986) – Margarethe von Trotta — Paddy Mulholland @screenonscreen
Film lovers, historians and liberals could do far, far worse than to seek out the works of German writer / director Margarethe von Trotta, in particular a string of classics produced by the filmmaker in the 1980s, all of them desperately under-sung. One of several memorable collaborations with the iconic Barbara Sukowa is Rosa Luxemburg, an appropriately vivid, vital account of the work of the titular character in the early 20th Century. von Trotta’s film is politically acute, historically aware and both philosophically and psychologically sensitive, and Sukowa’s performance is characterized by a subdued radiance, a conviction that perfectly matches that of her extraordinary subject. It’s engaging enough to appeal to those not exactly jumping for joy at the prospect of sitting through a political biopic, and well-made enough to appeal to those on the right of the political spectrum also. An excellent, under-appreciated film from an equally excellent, under-appreciated filmmaker.
Waitress (2007) – Adrienne Shelly — Robin Write @WriteoutofLA
Way, way too soon did the world lose the wonderful Adrienne Shelly in 2006, the very thought of which still stings with me. A heart-breakingly glowing screen presence (she famously had that poise in Hal Hartley’s terrific early work The Unbelievable Truth and Trust), Shelly also dabbled in writing and directing. Released just months after her untimely death, Shelly penned and directed Waitress, which took a bittersweet, funny, but also blunt, honest view of marital dysfunction. Primarily this appears to be a profitable platform for the splendid Keri Russell, as the pregnant pie baker of the title – a central performance so good, balancing the struggles of a crap marriage and a fat belly, with the red-faced blossom of new romance and ultimately a potential way out. Shelly was clearly capable of blending the reality of life and its lessons in her writing and directing, jumping back and forth between both sides of the drama / comedy wall. In a far quirkier subplot, Shelly cast herself as another waitress Dawn, and shines like she always does without stealing Russell’s thunder. Oh how I wished we could experience more of what you do, Adrienne – you are missed dearly.
Originally posted July 2015.