The scope of female film-makers transcends the mere role they have in the big bad film industry. They are greater than you assume. Track down each one of these as per usual and see them for yourself.
Silent House (2011) – Laura Lau
The notion of a young woman marooned inside a dark, spooky little house is a horror staple, yet Silent House has a real knack of grabbing hold of you tight and hardly letting you go by the end titles. Co-directed by Chris Kentis and Laura Lau, the big gold star goes to the incredible illusion that the movie is shot in real time and all one continuous take. It certainly adds to the feeling of suffocation and doom, as does the startling sound design, though the whole production is a replica of the Uruguayan original La casa muda (The Silent House). At the center of the scary movie is Elizabeth Olsen – who enrolled into a very different kind of social fear in Martha Marcy May Marlene. The camera sticks to Olsen like glue, we the audience feel we are trapped inside the house of bludgeoning horrors with her, she’s an actress who manages to keep the relentless shock on her face chilling and fresh throughout. – – – Robin Write@WriteoutofLA
Craig’s Wife (1936) – Dorothy Arzner
It is no secret that Hollywood’s Golden Age was by and large an era of film-making dominated by men. Men ran the studios, ran the stars and starlets, and ran the pictures. However, at a moment when women weren’t encourage to have careers at all, much less careers in male-dominated industries like film-making, there was Dorothy Arzner—out lesbian, film editor and director, launcher of careers, maker of fabulous films. You can’t really go wrong with anything in her oeuvre, but there is something about Craig’s Wife that really punctures one’s heart. On the surface, it is the story of a domineering and materialistic housewife, played to perfection by Rosalind Russell, whose frigidity and callousness alienate everyone around her, leaving her ultimately alone. However, if one digs under the surface, Craig’s Wife is also a film about a woman shaped by the fiercely patriarchal society in which she lives, and one can read Harriet’s callousness as a maladaptive behavior learned through exploitation and constraint. The ambiguity of women’s stories is something that Arzner excelled at delivering, and as a coded woman’s text, Craig’s Wife is unparalleled. – – – Desirae Embree @ZeeSayre
Mansfield Park (1999) – Patricia Rozema
Based on the Jane Austen’s novel, Mansfield Park is written and directed by Canadian Patricia Rozema (I’ve Heard the Mermaids Singing), who adds her own little narrative touches without damaging the adaptation. We still delve into social disruption and well-being restoration – the outcome of marriage proposals cause no end of headaches here. Rozema’s camera too shakily roams around, giving an authentic sense of space, inspiring given the familiar literary discourse. The main story sees Fanny Price, who is sent to live with her wealthy aunt and uncle as a child and we later join her as a young adult (a splendid Frances O’Connor) – Fanny is not exactly the black sheep of the family but is certainly not held is as high regard as her cousins. Bubbling under the surface is the developing friendship with Edmund, the chemistry between O’Connor and Jonny Lee Miller is one of the most enticing elements of a perfectly delightful film. Other recognizable faces impressively playing their part include Hugh Bonneville, James Purefoy, Embeth Davidtz, Alessandro Nivola, Sophia Myles, and Lindsay Duncan. – – – Robin Write @WriteoutofLA
The Invitation (2015) – Karyn Kusama
The Invitation perfectly and sprawlingly sets up the kind of adult dinner party you would rather, well, not be invited to. That’s not a negative on the movie itself, rather the premise puts together a group of people, and a set of prickly scenarios, a woman passing via a laptop screening, fresh memories of a lost child, adds to a head-scratching suggestion these people were once actual friends. Slow-burning, taut drama turns gradually to psychological thriller, almost horror, which turns out pretty deadly indeed. Hitting the heights of her first feature Girlfight, Karyn Kusama (backed by Gamechanger Films, advocates of movies made by women) conveys the right amount of awkward and tension, with no fat, and does not fall into tatty, B movie territory we’ve seen so many movies of this kind slip into. – – – Robin Write @WriteoutofLA
Disorder (2015) – Alice Winocour
Alice Winocour’s Disorder is one big, inconsequential foil, a collection of scenes and suggestions that add up to much less than promised. And what a thrilling foil it is, as an example of true technical mastery, and as a smart, understated sub-textual tease. Winocour interweaves elements of this depth and complexity in such a simple, natural manner that she leaves Disorder’s straightforward surface undisturbed, whilst introducing gentle undercurrents of suspicion and mistrust. Disorder follows through on its genre promises, revealing itself to be exactly what it appears, giving its wily winks in the direction of dramatic import a cheeky charm, somewhat mitigating their otherwise obvious insipidness. Winocour launches her film into pure thriller territory, relying on the superb skills of sensory suggestion she’s heretofore used more sparingly (though equally successfully). Brilliant blocking and terrific sound design (including fine soundtrack choices and an admirably unobtrusive score by Gesaffelstein) make for a marvelously tense third act. And Matthias Schoenaerts’ performance is an ideal match, both in purpose and in quality – his hulking physique as pitch-perfect as his emotional intensity. – – – Paddy Mulholland @screenonscreen
Originally published in July 2016.