As we just about draw the curtains on the 100 More Films Made By Women, there sure is a certain sadness, I’m not going to lie. After all the hard-work, the brain power, the anticipation, the digging, the discoveries, the watching, the writing – it comes down to this.
With the final 10 movies with women behind the camera in site, they illustrate that first love, the safe transition to adulthood. They long for your mother to accept you as you are, or even your father to be forgiven, somehow leave the past behind. We pray for loved ones to return from the war untainted, to experience healing regardless of your faith. These 10 movies, short or long, old or new, color or black and white, humorous or serious, are all wonderful examples of the talented female film-makes out there. I raise a glass to them all, as well as those great writers that contributed over these past weeks.
On that note, I close out the series all by myself – and it was a pure joy to be able to watch these films and then write about them. Here are the penultimate 5:
The Love Light (1921) – Frances Marion
Going back nearly 100 years to revisit a gem of the silent movie era is indeed a treat. The Love Light, written and directed by Frances Marion in 1921, is produced by the illustrious, industry darling Mary Pickford – who also stars, and is at her accustomed, melodramatic best. The movie opens in typical fashion, with comedy chases and sibling banter, but soon emerges as a something of a war drama, a love story, a fable of loss and hope. The love light of the title comes from the declaration of love from Angela (Pickford) via the lighthouse signal. It’s still to this very day a remarkable achievement, enthralling and moving throughout, equipped with engaging performances by the players and effective plot twists. The moment Angela hears those muttered words of the sleeping spy is a truly powerful moment that rivals any modern day narrative shock reveal. The Love Light has it’s fair share of tragedy and promise too, Pickford transcends from the screen like a beacon, a woman of iconic status without any doubt both in front of and behind the screen. I’d like to think she’d endorse women film-makers as much as, if not more than, any of us.
Pariah (2011) – Dee Rees
The coming of age stories are thriving under the direction of women it seems, and Pariah, written and directed by Dee Rees, is no different. Premiering at Sundance, the film is also a coming out story, an engaging, grueling affair, with the young Alike (Adepero Oduye) at the center of the sexual identity status. She is a hesitant lesbian, in practice, but she stops and starts, largely due to her mother, who does not approve and attempts to get her daughter to dress more feminine. Their relationship is turbulent and hard-fought, and as a result, like Alike declares herself in a poem she reads aloud, it is somewhat heart-breaking. When her mother struggles to reciprocate the “I love you” from Alike, the youngster claims, though, she is not broken, but free – and we so want to believe her.
Eve’s Bayou (1997) – Kasi Lemmons
1950s, Louisiana, and 10 year-old girl, Eve, takes some rather unorthodox action when she finds out her father is constantly being unfaithful to their mother. Eve’s Bayou is a relationship drama with much depth, given plenty of space for family dynamics between parents, siblings, and that of mothers, fathers, and their children. Written and directed by Kasi Lemmons (she was Jodie Foster’s buddy in The Silence of The Lambs), her directorial debut, this is a well-crafted drama, seemingly true to the period, lavish-looking, and wonderfully acted by actresses of varying ages, all with so much poise on display.
Night Catches Us (2010) – Tanya Hamilton
Ex-Black Panther Marcus (Anthony Mackie) makes his return to his old Philadelphia neighborhood during the summer of 1976, following the death of his father. His absence has a whiff of mystery attached, which means some people in the community are not so happy to see the man they consider a snitch. He re-acquaints himself with Patricia (Kerry Washington), whose murdered husband was also a Panther, and is now a civil-rights lawyer and single mother. Night Catches Us has a strong historical layer, with actual footage, though only dips it’s toes into the whys and what-fors, director and writer Tanya Hamilton brings out a solid, gripping drama. Washington and Mackie have great on-screen chemistry, and have rarely been better than they are here.
Lourdes (2009) – Jessica Hausner
Multiple sclerosis means Christine (Sylvie Testud) is bound by a wheelchair. She is also restrictive in her faith, so while visiting Lourdes, an iconic Catholic site, she begins to feel actual bodily sensations again (while the faithful do not so much). Before the change in fortunes, Christine tells of a dream she had were she was paralyzed and that Virgin Mary had appeared to her and she was paralyzed no more. In and around the script are snippets of conversation on healing and faith, echoing those notions of the suspicion of religion. Religion and desire go hand-in-hand to some degree here, then, as director Jessica Hausner does a fine job in telling these life events just as they are, and also in not providing us, or indeed the characters, with the answers. Testud is cunningly impressive, with that wry smile creeping through and a sly glint in her eye, like she has the upper hand over everyone else in spite of her motionless state.
Originally published in August 2016.