STANDING DESPITE EVERYTHING
By Juliette Arnaud
Brigitte Bardot in Godard’s Le Mépris (Contempt)
I’ve decided to celebrate us ladies with a review of films about women and feminism. Beware! If you came here to read about films with victim’s snivelling, you were wrong! Those rather do a disservice to us and to our cause and don’t make you love us, on the contrary. Here it’s all about standing despite everything.
Thus the best feminist films are those who will make you love women, the real ones. Complaining about something that’s important and making good films is possible, which just goes to show that if you’re not a wretch you can make a film on a delicate subject without lapsing into melodrama, communitarianism or morbid moan.
I’ve chosen to introduce you to two great filmmakers, a woman and a man, who made films that, according to me, convey a real feminist message.
Make way for those films that are an ode to us and to life!
ZOOM IN ON CELINE SCIAMMA’S CINEMA : A FEMININE POINT OF VIEW
Céline Sciamma is a French screenwriter and film director who’s filmmaking is mostly focused on adolescent or pre-adolescents. She’s very interested in sexual identity among girls during this formative period that every woman knows. She’s known for her movie Tomboy that made a fierce controversy flaring up about it because it showed a 10-year-old girl who introduces herself as a boy. But although it has caused a lot of ink to flow, this isn’t the film that interests us today.
BANDE DE FILLES (GIRLHOOD)
*Moan* It’s so hard to be a black girl! Down with patriarchy!
No. It’s Celine Sciamma in charge, so it’s extremely just, realist, true. And also very beautiful.
Bande de filles (Girlhood) shows the life of Marieme, played by Karidja Touré, a 16-year-old African-French girl who lives in a rough neigborhood near Paris. Due to her mother’s demanding work schedule, Marieme’s in charge of her abusive brother, who plays the role of an absent father. Struggling at school, she’s one day approached by a gang of three other black girls, wearing leather jackets, gold jewelry and having pin straight hair, who ask her if she wants to join them. After initially declining the offer, she accepts to join the gang when she sees they’re friends with a group of boys, including her brother’s friend, whom she has a crush on. Marieme then grows close to those girls who fight, steal and respect no one; she starts acting and dressing just like them, but also becoming emancipated from her abusive older brother.
Celine Sciamma shows a complex reality that goes way further than a simple acknowledgment who’d say that “Black people are victims,” “Men are dangerous” or things like this. Bande de filles doesn’t want to draw up a flattering portrait of the suburb, it wants to show it the way it really is, through the eyes of a 16-year-old shy teenager, who’s going to find her place in a gang of girls. We see her everyday life, with her older abusive brother who lays down his law at home, her absent mother with her shitty job, her two other sisters, her love affairs, etc. Everything’s here.
The film is never dwelling on the sordid side of life, above all it’s beautiful despite the harshness of what’s shown. It’s a film full of tenderness, of moments of happiness, often ephemeral. But in spite of this hard statement of fact, it’s pure, beautiful, full of life.
There’s a scene where the entire group of girls pay for a hotel room, steal dresses, drunk alcohol, do drugs, lip sync and dance all night long to Diamonds by Rihanna. At the hotel, one of the other girls encourages Marieme to ignore her abusive older brother’s phone calls. This scene is sublime, most likely one of the most beautiful moment of cinema of last year, it’s so good to see something like this in a film.
Bande de filles shows a real woman constantly evolving, no one in the film is perfect, but everyone’s real.
ZOOM IN ON GASPAR NOE’S CINEMA : A MASCULINE POINT OF VIEW
Gaspar Noé is an Argentine screenwriter and filmmaker living in France, who has worked on various projects: feature films, short films, video-clips and advertisings. He also shot the cover art for Sky Ferreira’s debut album Night Time, My Time. His work is mostly known for his attenuated use of narrative, a treatment of sexual behaviour as violent rather than intimate, and a pervasive sense of social nihilism or despair. Noé aims to disrupt and disturb the viewer, and his films have all been criticized for their violence, especially the one I’ve chosen to talk about today. He’s by reputation a nefarious auteur who stops at nothing in order to make the viewer feel ill at ease, but always with the aim to make him think and feel thrills.
Alex, a young woman, is being raped in a tunnel. Her husband Marcus and his best friend decide to find the culprit and to take the law into their own hands.
Irreversible employs a non-linear narrative and follows the two men as they try to avenge Alex. An American critic called it “a movie so violent and cruel that most people will find it unwatchable.” Indeed, the film contains two really raw scenes of violence: one where a man is bludgeoned to death by a fire extinguisher and an other one where Alex (Monica Bellucci) is shown being raped in a 10 minute long take scene.
What makes Irreversible a real feminist film is this last scene. The viewer is forced to face the reality of rape, and can’t evade from what can happen to any woman (or man) at any moment. It’s not gratuitous violence; it always aims to make the viewer think to something he may not really be aware of. Feeling uneasy in front of the hard facts is important, it makes you become rape-conscious, and lots of people aren’t.
I highly invite you to watch Bande de filles (Girlhood) and Irreversible, and the other films from these two filmmakers. To help you broading your cinematographic culture, I’ve made you all a list of various films about the question of feminism or about women.
We’d like you to watch those who interest you in order to discuss about it with you! Keep us informed of your viewings!
SUCKER STARTER PACK : FILMS TO WATCH
– By Celine Sciamma : Bande de filles (Girlhood), Tomboy, Naissance de pieuvres (Water Lilies)
– By Gaspar Noé : Irreversible, Love
– By Jean-Pierre Dardenne : Rosetta, Deux jours une nuit (Two Days, One Night)
– By Claire Denis : Les Salauds (Bastards)
– By Lars Von Trier : Dogville, Antichrist, Nymphomaniac
– By Jean Luc Godard : Une femme est une femme (A Woman is a woman), Le Mépris (Contempt)
– By Harmony Korine : Spring Breakers
– By Larry Clark : Kid, Ken Park, The Smell of Us
– By Abdellatif Kechiche : Venus Noire (Black Venus), La vie d’Adele (Blue is the warmest colour)