As we 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. The final 10 movies with women behind the camera.
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.
The Love Light (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 (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 (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 (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 (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.
Volta (Stella Kyriakopoulos)
Born in New Jersey, Greek film-maker-and-editor Stella Kyriakopoulos was raised in Athens, and these days resides between New York and Greece. Her first, and the nation’s, visit to the Sundance short film competition in 2015 resulted in her receiving the Women in Film in Los Angeles Award for her short film Volta. Telling the intriguing and simple tale of a mother and daughter ambling around parts of Athens. Kyriakopoulos drew inspiration from her own experiences as the people of Greece were suffering losses during the recent financial crisis.
A Day’s Plead (Linda Fenstermaker)
To say this is disorientating is an under-statement, Linda Fenstermaker shakes up your vision, and gets your brain working harder than usual, editing together with rapid cuts of similar spots of a house. Parts of a map, a closing and opening door, the shapes of window frames and walls, blending color with black and white. Objects appear to subconsciously reinvent their meaning in front of our eyes, and as we try to make sense of the imagery, all in those few seconds. And it’s an empty house, isolated, the unease of such execution is skillful, but no good for my own anxiety.
A Million Miles Away (Jennifer Reeder)
A Million Miles Away is a captivating short film written and directed by Jennifer Reeder, which merges multiple teenage girls and their spoken angst and chit-chat, with an adult woman, who seems lonely and fragile. The woman later turns out to be the teenagers’ substitute music teacher. The film, which runs just under the half hour mark, serves as a kind of spoken poem, a steady out-pour of thoughts and feelings relating to the particular speaker’s own insecurities or concerns. A composition of personal anguish – expressed in various ways including to an E.T. figure, and through a vocal Madonna rendition. All in all a fascinating experience. The second half of the film, as class begins, the troubled conductor faces the unsympathetic, but curious eyes, of the teenage girl choir. Their singing harmonies perfectly encapsulate the enigmatic emotions in the air. The girls soon develop into a kind of support system to the woman, and the adult and teenage world optimistically collide.
It Felt Like Love (Eliza Hittman)
Another woman provides another tender tale of misunderstood teenagers. This time Eliza Hittman displays some bold and expressive film-making as she follows a teenager girl, Lila (Gina Piersanti), who wants to grow up in a big hurry, specifically allured by the sexual escapades of her more experienced girl friend. She soon learns the complications of adulthood by sheer curiosity and attempting to imitate her potential older self. It’s a fascinating transition from childhood to the world of an adult, and Hittman handles the exploration beautifully, albeit bringing a sense of danger to the teenage limbo phase of one’s life. The camera lingers around Lila, almost giving us her point of view, but the photography too is gorgeous to look at.
Goodbye First Love (Mia Hansen-Løve)
The name Mia Hansen-Løve ought to be a household one, synonymous with quiet little films, emotional in impact, and honest in execution. Such delicacy and intimacy is there in Goodbye First Love (Un amour de jeunesse) from start to finish, this is instantly a film that beautifully slips into the blood stream, bouncing back and forth from the heart. Appearing in pretty much every scene, Camille (a sympathetic, yet assertive turn from Lola Créton), begins a teenager in love, transcends into a young woman at study and work, but never really loses that euphoria or heartbreak from the first love. Camille is quite an insecure girl, both in that initial adoration, and eight years on, scratching at the surface of her romantic companion’s locked feelings. She wants that reassurance, always has, ever since their rural romantic flourish before he set off for months to travel abroad. It’s not her fault, love like that creeps up on you, is hard to shake off, and does make you volatile. Camille is a tough cookie, wears her heart on her sleeve, but is not afraid to duck for the apples. It is testament to director Hansen-Løve and actress Créton that this thing called love is captured with such affecting sincerity.
All 10 selection written by Robin Write @WriteoutofLA
Click below for the previous nine parts of this extraordinary series: