Foreign Film

‘Artemisia’: The Romantic Roots of Rape Culture

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The impulse to erase a woman’s testimony, to deny her agency and perception of the crime, while denying society’s victim blaming and bias against survivors of rape — this is the basis of what feminism describes as rape culture. Yet here it is practiced not by a misogynist man, nor by a loyal friend of the alleged rapist, but by a female director aiming to create “emphatically a feminist film.”

How Catherine Breillat Uses Her Own Painful Story to Discuss the Female Gaze in ‘Abuse of Weakness’

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The female gaze is more than simply “reversing” the male gaze; it allows for a questioning of why the male gaze is so inherently built into cinema and why women are aggressively sexualised within cinema. With ‘Abuse of Weakness,’ Breillat attacks both of these concerns whilst also actively encouraging identification with Maud – our female protagonist.

Catherine Breillat’s Transfigurative Female Gaze

A Real Young Girl (Une vraie jeune fille)

Breillat’s complete oeuvre (which certainly demands our attention beyond these three films) delivers continually shocking treatment of female sexuality presented though the female gaze. She wants us to be uncomfortable and to be constantly questioning both representations of female desire and our responses to those representations, and how all of it is shaped by a religious, patriarchal culture.

‘Je suis FEMEN’ (‘I am FEMEN’): The Story of Oksana Shachko and a Movement

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While they disrupt a game, we see footage of the cheerleaders and female entertainers dancing and performing for male audiences. There were numerous charges filed against the Femen activists after Euro 2012. The scantily clad women that were in those spaces specifically for the male gaze, however, were welcomed.

‘The Loneliest Planet’ and the Fracturing of Masculinity

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Alex is, in many ways, the ideal of the modern man: Handsome, athletic, intelligent, well-traveled, well-off financially but still environmentally sensitive, and with a romantic partner he treats as an equal. Because of this, he has no trouble shrugging off the gendered stereotypes expected of his relationship in the first half of the film. But as soon as he is given reason to doubt his own traditionally defined masculinity, it all falls apart.

‘Mommy’: Her Not Him

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I went into ‘Mommy,’ the magnificent film from out, gay, Québécois prodigy Xavier Dolan (he’s 26 and this feature is the fifth he’s written and directed) knowing that Anne Dorval, who plays the title character, was being touted in some awards circles as a possible nominee for “Best Actress” in 2014 (she’s flawless in this role, certainly better than the other Best Actress nominees I saw)–as opposed to “Best Supporting Actress.” But this film (which won the Jury Prize at Cannes) kept surpassing my expectations by keeping its focus on her and not the one who would be the main character of any other film: her at turns charismatic, obnoxious and violent 15-year-old, blonde son, Steve (an incredible Antoine-Olivier Pilon).

‘Girlhood’: Observed But Not Seen

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‘Girlhood’ starts on a peak note: a slow-motion scene of what looks like Black men playing American tackle football on a field at night, wearing helmets, shoulder pads and mouth guards, so we don’t realize–until we notice the players’ breasts under their uniforms–that they are all girls.

‘Dogtooth’: The Blindfold of Socialization

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By introducing the audience to a tight-knit family with a very peculiar upbringing, the film allows a glimpse into socialization, explores gender politics, and shows how art can lead to individualism.

‘English-Vinglish’: Straddling Patriarchal and Linguistic Hegemony

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Moving away from the Bollywood style masala and dancing-around-the-trees numbers, this film focuses on the real-life issue of the position of women in the domestic and social spheres in India.

‘Mother India’: Woman, Pillar of the Nation

The iconic Mother India poster, where Radha (Nargis) bears a heavy wooden plough almost like a crucifix

‘Mother India’ treats Radha’s abnegating nature as a positive. Look how nobly she suffers for her husband and sons, the movie seems to say. In real life, such glorification of women’s suffering enables an exploitative system of economic growth on the backs of underpaid, overworked women. They get nothing except lip service, sometimes not even that.

‘The World Before Her’: Between Liberalization and Fundamentalism–India’s Two Faces

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Pahuja sees the film as going beyond the issues of women’s rights; according to her, the film is about India, and what’s happening there, and the fear about the future as the culture of the country goes through extreme changes. She adds that, through the film, she would like to showcase the kind of “hatred being taught in the camps in the guise of patriotism.”

‘Mommy’: Her Not Him

mommy_cover

I went into ‘Mommy,’ the magnificent, new film from out gay, Québécois prodigy Xavier Dolan (he’s 25 and this film is the fifth he’s written and directed) knowing that Anne Dorval, who plays the title character was being touted in some awards circles as a possible nominee for “Best Actress” (she’s flawless in this role, certainly better than the other Best Actress nominees I’ve seen)–as opposed to “Best Supporting Actress.” But this film kept confounding my expectations by keeping its focus on her and not the one who would be the main character of any other film: her at turns charismatic, obnoxious and violent 15-year-old, blonde son Steve (an incredible Antoine-Olivier Pilon).