3/30/2016

I Am a Woman, Watch Me Make a Movie





Eve has definitely come a long way since she was allegedly taken out of Adam's rib. She has long stepped out of his shadow, standing up for herself and speaking her mind. Eve doesn't need many Twitter followers or a thousand of Facebook likes just to prove her worth. She knows she's worth it.

Cinema has given the female species an opportunity to express themselves; and the opportunity isn't wasted. Although filmmaking is mostly a man's world, women have become the captain of their own cinematic ship.

In celebration of being a woman, I listed down some of my favorite films directed by women. (In alphabetical order.)



Bollywood/Hollywood
Deepa Mehta, 2002




Whoever said women can't be funny doesn't know the meaning of "funny." Miss Mehta's film after the critical success of her first two "element movies" (Fire and Earth), Bollywood/Hollywood is about an Indian family in Canada, how the eldest son (ex-MTV Asia VJ Rahul Khanna) is torn between two traditions.

Fire and Bollywood/Hollywood are my fave Deepa Mehta films. If Fire was burning with passion and tragedy, the other is a cheerful and heartwarming ode to Bollywood. Miss Mehta's Bollywood/Hollywood also pays tribute to the joy and beauty of filmmaking. Miss Mehta cleverly injects humor into the film by poking fun at Bollywood clichés; there's death by levitation, the witty descriptions on screen, candid closing credits, and (of course) the random singing and dancing.


Trailer for Bollywood/Hollywood:




Fatso
Anne Bancroft, 1980




Dominic DiNapoli (Dom DeLuise) is an overweight man who just can't resist food. After his cousin dies, Dom's sister (Miss Bancroft) forces him to lose weight. Of course, Dom is having a hard time resisting his first love, which is food – that is until Lydia (Candice Azzara) comes along. He has finally found his true love, the kind that makes him leave his comfort food, I mean, zone.

Fatso works adequately as both a love story and a public service announcement about obesity's downsides. The film can be funny and sad at the same time, making you feel sorry for Dom yet you want him to be healthier by slimming down. Miss Bancroft impressively punctuates the dilemma of an obese person – not by making fun of him (which is what's usually seen in most films), but by showing us the everyday struggles fat people must endure.


Trailer for Fatso:



Mädchen in Uniform
Leontine Sagan, 1931




The oldest film on this list, Mädchen in Uniform (Girls in Uniform) was way ahead of its time. It's a forbidden love story between Manuela von Meinhardis (Hertha Thiele) and her teacher, Fräulein von Bernburg (Dorothea Wieck). 

Just like the Audrey Hepburn-starrer The Children's Hour, Mädchen in Uniform is a rainbow-colored movie that was based on a stage play. The film was reportedly banned by the Nazis, finding it "decadent." Yet despite its controversial history, Mädchen in Uniform went on to inspire other love stories like 1951's Olivia, 2006's Loving Annabelle, True Love's Holly (starring that Scodelario lady), and of course Mädchen in Uniform (a 1958 remake starring Romy Schneider).


Mädchen in Uniform:



Muro-Ami
Marilou Diaz-Abaya, 1999




One of the best filmmakers from the Philippines, the late and great Marilou Diaz-Abaya has left an impressive body of work, films that explore the depths of a human soul. She sentimentally examines the whys and hows of a person's being. Best known in her native country for Jose Rizal, Miss Diaz-Abaya's filmography includes Karnal, Sa Pusod ng Dagat (In the Navel of the Sea), Bagong Buwan, and Muro-Ami (Reef Hunters).

Muro-Ami centers on Fredo (Cesar Montano), a fisherman who dives deep into his anger by being the captain of an illegal fishing vessel. He mostly employs children, one of those include Kalbo (Rebecca Lusterio), a young girl who disguises herself as a young boy. Muro-Ami's multilayered plot provocatively discusses revenge, child labor, and gender identity and equality.


An excerpt from Muro-Ami:



Ratcatcher
Lynne Ramsay, 1999




Before she talked about Kevin, Lynne Ramsay has already impressed audiences and critics alike via Ratcatcher. The film is a coming-of-age tale of a Scottish boy in an impoverished, grimy Glasgow neighborhood. After he accidentally killed a younger boy, James (William Eadie) became even more isolated, withdrawn from the world around him. He finds solace in his own world, as well as with some of the eccentric people in town.

Miss Ramsay's simplistic filmmaking style is what makes the film endearing. Ratcatcher's poetic tenderness is mostly highlighted by well-positioned music. Devoid of vanity, the film is as authentic as deep-seated emotions could be.


Trailer for Ratcatcher:



Selma
Ava DuVernay, 2014




A historical film about racial injustice in 1960s America, Selma is based on the Selma to Montgomery marches, whose one of the leaders included Martin Luther King, Jr. (David Oyelowo). Selma was controversial not just because of its subject, but also because of its Oscar snub, which deeply echoes the inequality that was shown in the film.

In my humble opinion, Selma is an instant classic. It is one of the important films of the 21st century, the kind that will inspire many generations.


Trailer for Selma:



Unga Sophie Bell
Amanda Adolfsson, 2014




Ingmar and Ingrid are the names that come to mind when we think about Swedish cinema. But beyond the name "Bergman" lies a broad range of films directed by women: Lisa Langseth's Pure and Hotell (both starring Alicia Vikander), Gabriela Pichler's Eat Sleep Die, Pernilla August's Beyond (starring Noomi Rapace), Alexandra-Therese Keining's Kiss Me, Amanda Adolfsson's Unga Sophie Bell, etc.

Unga Sophie Bell (Young Sophie Bell) tells the story of Sophie Bell (Felice Jankell) and her symbiotic relationship with BFF Alice (Hedda Stiernstedt). Sophie and Alice plan to go to Berlin together after high school graduation, but their plan was hampered after Alice disappears. Searching for her best friend, Sophie finds herself in Germany, alone in a new world.

Oh, you know, first-world problems like sleepwalking with your makeup on, running away from your middle-class family, partying like there's no tomorrow, etc. What makes Unga Sophie Bell interesting for me – aside from its cinematography – is the brilliant analogy Miss Adolfsson uses; Alice's disappearance and Sophie leaving Sweden serve as a metaphor of Sophie leaving behind her youth and innocence as she comes of age in a different country (which symbolically translates as the world of adulthood).


Trailer for Unga Sophie Bell:



Vagabond
Agnès Varda, 1985




One of the pioneers of the French New Wave, Agnès Varda has been one of the most influential figures in world cinema. Some of her best works include Cléo from 5 to 7, Le Bonheur, and Vagabond. The latter is about a drifter named Mona (Sandrine Bonnaire), whose frozen corpse was found in a ditch somewhere in rural France; from there we see flashbacks leading up to Mona's death.

"You chose total freedom but you got total loneliness." The film bluntly tells us that nothing in life is free because everything has a price, including freedom. It also aims to show us that we are all just wanderers in the existential road of life, and so we must walk the best way that we can.


Excerpts from Vagabond:




The Virgin Suicides
Sofia Coppola, 1999




This is my fave Sofia Coppola movie. Lost in Translation is just kinda tedious for me, it rambles on and on and is indeed lost in translation. The Virgin Suicides has a simple yet stylish narrative. The film's remarkable imagery makes it a resonating anthem of young heartbreak, a love song to a fascinating enigma that can never be solved.


Opening scenes for The Virgin Suicides:



Xiu Xiu: The Sent Down Girl
Joan Chen, 1998




Saw this one in college film class, its emotional impact has been unforgettable since then. Along with Anne Bancroft, Joan Chen is one of the actresses who made an impressive transition into filmmaking.

Set during Mao Zedong's regime, Miss Chen's directorial debut is a heartbreaking story about Xiu Xiu (Li Xiaolu), a young woman forced to work somewhere near Tibet, sent on a downward spiral of misery and desperation. Along with Ingmar Bergman's The Virgin Spring, Xiu Xiu: The Sent Down Girl is one of the most depressing films I've seen. It depicts lost innocence in such an emotionally brutal manner. And don't get me started with the film's ending; otherwise, I'm gonna need a box of tissue.


Excerpt from Xiu Xiu: The Sent Down Girl:




Other must-see films:

American Psycho (Mary Harron, 2000)
Boys Don't Cry (Kimberly Peirce, 1999)
Daisies (Vera Chytilová, 1966)
Eve's Bayou (Kasi Lemmons, 1997)
Girlfight (Karyn Kusama, 2000)
The Hitch-Hiker (Ida Lupino, 1953)
Jeanne Dielman, 23 Commerce Quay, 1080 Brussels (Chantal Akerman, 1975)
The Kids Are All Right (Lisa Cholodenko, 2010)
The Piano (Jane Campion, 1993)
Wanda (Barbara Loden, 1970)


DISCLAIMER: No copyright infringement intended. I don't own or claim to own any of the photos used.



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