Women Directors List Discussion + Suggestions

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domino harvey
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Women Directors List Discussion + Suggestions

#1 Post by domino harvey » Fri Apr 13, 2018 10:37 am

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THE WOMEN DIRECTORS LIST
April 13 - June 01

Deadline extended to June 8th!

Move over, dudes

RULES

Films must be directed by and credited to a woman. Eligibility for films without public credit for a woman director will be decided on a case by case basis

Films may be co-directed, so long as one of the credited directors is a woman

Films may be of any length

Self-shot videos in any field or medium, including digital media outlets like YouTube, are eligible— so if you ever wanted to vote for an ASMRtist rubbing a feather across a microphone, good news!

With regards to the Wachowskis, only Cloud Atlas and Jupiter Ascending are eligible for the list. However, being credited in a film as a "woman" is not inherently a metric of self identification or a value judgment, and both Wachowskis should be considered trans women, as per their public wishes


HOW TO VOTE
The minimum, maximum, and standard number of films listed on your ballot is 25 in ranked order (1 being best, and so on). If you can read this post, you can participate in the list! Lists should be PMed to me, domino harvey, no later than June 01, 2018


IN-THREAD IN-DEPTH WRITE-UPS

Satori on Dorothy Arzner / Duras' India Cycle


FORUM RESOURCES

the Blue Light / Female Film Directors / French Actresses Directing Films / Olympia / Triumph of the Will

Home of the Brave / Ishtar / Mikey & Nicky

A Wrinkle in Time / Across the Universe / Almayer's Folly / American Honey / the Arbor / the Babadook / the Bad Batch / Bastards / Battle of the Sexes / the Beguiled / the Bling Ring / Brave / Bright Star / Cloud Atlas / Detroit / the Future / the Headless Woman / he Hurt Locker / the Invitation / the Intruder / Julie & Julia / Jupiter Ascending / the Kids Are All Right / the Last Mistress / Little Miss Sunshine / Marie Antoinette / Me and You and Everyone We Know / Meek's Cutoff / No Home Movie / the Notorious Betty Page / Old Joy / Persepolis / Ruby Sparks / the Savages / Seeking a Friend for the End of the World / Selma / Sleeping Beauty / Somewhere / Stop-Loss / Take This Waltz / the Tempest / Thirteen / Toni Erdmann / Visages, Villages / We Need to Talk About Kevin / Wendy & Lucy / Whip It! / Winter's Bone / Wuthering Heights / You Were Never Really Here / Zero Dark Thirty

Claire Denis / Lena Dunham / Agnes Varda

Olive Kitteridge

Eclipse 11: Larisa Shepitko
Eclipse 19: Chantal Akerman in the 70s [La chambre, Hotel Monterey, News from Home, Je tu il elle, Les rendez-vous d'Anna]
Eclipse 32: Pearls of the Czech New Wave [Pearls of the Deep, Daisies]
Eclipse 43: Agnes Varda in California [Uncle Yanco, Black Panthers, Lions Love (...and Lies), Murs Murs, Documenteur]
59 the Night Porter
73-74, 418-420 4 by Agnes Varda [Cleo from 5 to 7, Vagabond, La Pointe Courte, Le bonheur]
99 Gimme Shelter
122 Salesman
123, 361 Grey Gardens and the Beales of Grey Gardens
162 Ratcatcher
177 the Lost Honor of Katharina Blum
259 Fat Girl
301 An Angel at My Table
334 Harlan County, U.S.A.
356 Sweetie
362 Border Radio
477 Bergman Island
484 Jeanne Dielman, 23, Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles
489 Monsoon Wedding
553 Fish Tank
560 White Material
597 Tiny Furniture
743 La cienaga
846 Heart of a Dog
853 Cameraperson
893 Certain Women
895 David Lynch: the Art Life
896 the Lure
900 100 Years of Olympic Films
902 Desert Hearts
920 the Virgin Suicides

2 the Holy Mountain
131 A New Leaf

Daughters of the Dust
Germany, Pale Mother
Peppermint Soda


Links compiled with help by DarkImbecile

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knives
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Re: Women Directors List Discussion + Suggestions

#2 Post by knives » Fri Apr 13, 2018 2:34 pm

I was having trouble getting this down to fifty so twenty five should be plenty of fun. The short amount also means I better up my planned viewing. There's a lot I just have not even come close to.

Just a bit of clarification on the co-director rule is that in absolution? I ask because though that would make The Turin Horse eligible that film doesn't really seem in the spirit of the list.

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swo17
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Re: Women Directors List Discussion + Suggestions

#3 Post by swo17 » Fri Apr 13, 2018 2:36 pm

Each of Tarr's last three films actually

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knives
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Re: Women Directors List Discussion + Suggestions

#4 Post by knives » Fri Apr 13, 2018 2:39 pm

(I was blanking on Tarr's name which is why I used that title) 8-[

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hearthesilence
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Re: Women Directors List Discussion + Suggestions

#5 Post by hearthesilence » Fri Apr 13, 2018 4:32 pm

One title I'd urge everyone to see is Sara Driver's You Are Not I. I had known about it for quite a while before actually seeing it, but I had no idea it was considered lost up until 2011 when a marvelous looking print was found and restored.

Jonathan Rosenbaum has probably written more about this film than anyone else - this is probably the best one to read.

Agnès Varda, Chantal Akerman and Claire Denis could pretty much own anyone's list - I think I've seen enough great films from other women that will keep that from happening, but they'll certainly take the top three spots of mine.

I've seen only two films by Maya Deren (At Land and Meshes of the Afternoon), but she'll definitely place high on mine. Her work was certainly on my mind while I was watching Lynch's Twin Peaks: The Return. (At least two moments seemed to be an homage to Deren's mirrored face.)

The Enchanted Desna may have been the biggest discovery I made last year - I knew nothing of it until the Museum of the Moving Image played a rarely screened 70mm print (and it may very well have been the North American premiere of a 70mm screening, 50 years after it was made - incredible since the film was shot in that format). If you ever get the chance, absolutely go, it's quite a spectacle.

And I have a soft spot for Gillian Armstrong's version of Little Women, which I may be alone in preferring over her more celebrated works from Australia. The cast is wonderful and every character is beautifully rendered.

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bottled spider
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Re: Women Directors List Discussion + Suggestions

#6 Post by bottled spider » Fri Apr 13, 2018 6:41 pm

Sold! Just ordered "Driver X4: The Lost and Found Films of Sara Driver". Never heard of her before.

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swo17
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Re: Women Directors List Discussion + Suggestions

#7 Post by swo17 » Fri Apr 13, 2018 6:48 pm

I'd be more likely to vote for Sleepwalk from that set.

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domino harvey
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Re: Women Directors List Discussion + Suggestions

#8 Post by domino harvey » Fri Apr 13, 2018 7:28 pm

This is not an intuitive list for me to compile or think about, as I could give a damn what the gender of the director is and do not believe it matters on the whole in terms of content. I’m treating this as a genre sorting exercise, as looking at it as a litmus test for inherent qualities that a film directed by a woman contains over those made by a man is something I reject outright. But with all the talk of how few women directors there are, period, I say the more the merrier for discoveries, rediscoveries, and defenses of those that have achieved success behind the camera. There are precious few great women directors compared to the number of men. Let’s hope we all discover some more to add to our own lists!

This exercise cuts out nearly all of studio era product, especially since I like exactly zero of the films Ida Lupino directed, so a huge chunk of the films I’m interested in are already set aside from contention. Elaine May’s the Heartbreak Kid and A New Leaf place high for me on my provisional ballot, as does, in no particular order: Mai Zetterling’s the Girls, which answers the question, “What would happen if Bergman made a Godard film?” (And of course a few years later he kinda did with the Passion of Anna!); Diane Betrand’s hypnotic L’annulaire, an enchanting study in submission and sustained eroticism; Miranda July’s Me and You and Everyone We Know, transposing performance art to film art; Andrea Arnold’s kinetic Wuthering Heights adaptation; Bachelorette, the laugh out loud funniest film of the last ten years; two by Lynn Shelton: Laggies and Touchy Feely, each a superb example of a kind of film hard to make great; Wendy and Lucy, a clear look at the Have Nots; the Piano, which should have been the first film to win a Best Director award for a female helmer and almost certainly would have any other year— damn you Schindler’s List!; Shirley Clarke’s disturbing the Portrait of Jason, with its last minute left turn into Hell; Sophia Coppola’s Somewhere, still the best distillation of the parts of her work that truly gel; Tamara Jenkins’ the Savages, an imperfect film that nevertheless has stuck with me all these years for its ever-present relatability; Winter’s Bone and J Law before she was J Law; Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, which has one of the most haunting and beautiful of all endings, one that stays true to the premise of the film while acknowledging the default perspective we as an audience take in watching it; the Prince of Tides, a study of an unexpectedly dark childhood trauma— Lynn Shelton’s You Were Never Really Here plumbs similar grounds in is flashbacks, but the clarity here is more brutal and cruel than that film, if you can believe it; Innocence, a bewitching “What the fuck is happening” feature-length metaphor; Julie & Julia, a lightweight study in and defense of hero worship; the entertaining and gristly vamp antics of Near Dark; the slasher movie distillation of Slumber Party Massacre, in which Roger Corman hires a female director because he knows doing so will generate interest by itself and thus sell tickets/rentals— the man knew what he was doing!; and, not joking, ’is HIPSTER RUNOFF rlly relevant?’, which is still, seven years later, the funniest and most specific satirical product I’ve ever encountered. The eight minutes both mock and celebrate the defunct, unarchived, and mostly forgotten website Hipster Runoff in the most accurately attuned imitation of its style imaginable— this is only funny if you read Hipster Runoff enough and remember it to recognize how fully this young woman nails it. Yes, I’m throwing my vote away. Don’t care, it’s in my Top 10.

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domino harvey
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Re: Women Directors List Discussion + Suggestions

#9 Post by domino harvey » Fri Apr 13, 2018 7:40 pm

knives wrote:Just a bit of clarification on the co-director rule is that in absolution? I ask because though that would make The Turin Horse eligible that film doesn't really seem in the spirit of the list.
As ever, one should vote with the spirit of the list in mind. If you feel these Tarr films present more of Tarr than his co-director, you already know the answer regardless of list eligibility

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colinr0380
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Re: Women Directors List Discussion + Suggestions

#10 Post by colinr0380 » Fri Apr 13, 2018 8:26 pm

I'll throw Margarethe von Trotta's Rosa Luxemburg and Agnès Merlet's Artemisia in here as well, both following on from the Biopics list.

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Satori
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Re: Women Directors List Discussion + Suggestions

#11 Post by Satori » Fri Apr 13, 2018 8:55 pm

domino harvey wrote: the slasher movie distillation of Slumber Party Massacre, in which Roger Corman hires a female director because he knows doing so will generate interest by itself and thus sell tickets/rentals— the man knew what he was doing!
I've got a bunch of writeups that I've been working on for this project, but I might as well start by co-signing Slumber Party Massacre. I could watch this every day and not get tired of it. Written by the great Rita Mae Brown, the film apparently started as a parody of the slasher genre that was filmed "straight" by Amy Jones for Corman's production company. I actually think this tension between the authentic slasher bits and the parodic excess works extremely well. While still working within the conventions of the genre, SPM develops a refreshing take on the slasher, putting the relationships between women at its center. The film is also loads of fun, never taking itself too seriously even during the grisly murders.

I believe the entire SPM series has female directors. I remember liking the sequels, but I don't remember them very well. It is worth noting that Corman actually has a long history of hiring female directors and technicians, which is probably even rarer in exploitation film than in mainstream Hollywood.

Stephanie Rothman is one of the great 70s grindhouse directors: some of her key films include the women-in-prison film Terminal Island, the bisexual vampire movie Velvet Vampire, and sexploitation films like Student Nurses and Group Marriage. She also made my favorite beach party movie ever, It's a Bikini World. Her 1974 film Working Girls is also the second of three important female-directed films with that title, sandwiched between Dorothy Arzner's 1931 masterpiece and Lizzie Borden's 1986 feminist classic.

The other key female director for Corman's New World days is Barbara Peeters, who made the lesbian pulp Just the Two of Us, a biker movie called Bury Me an Angel, some sexploitation titles, and a couple of sci-fi movies, notably Humanoids from the Deep.

More contemporary with the Slumber Party Massacre series are the films by Katt Shea, including Stripped to Kill and the classic '90s erotic thriller Poison Ivy.

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bottled spider
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Re: Women Directors List Discussion + Suggestions

#12 Post by bottled spider » Fri Apr 13, 2018 9:03 pm

This is another opportunity to plug My American Cousin (Sandy Wilson, 1985), the Canadian national treasure known to approximately five people.

Unconnected to the project I happened to watch Crossing Delancey (Joan Micklin Silver, 1988) recently. If you're in the mood for a likeable film, this is a likeable film. It doesn't do backflips trying to be original or funny, but it succeeds within its modest ambitions.

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Re: Women Directors List Discussion + Suggestions

#13 Post by Rayon Vert » Fri Apr 13, 2018 9:14 pm

bottled spider wrote:This is another opportunity to plug My American Cousin (Sandy Wilson, 1985), the Canadian national treasure known to approximately five people.
I'm no. 6. Nice film.

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Kirkinson
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Re: Women Directors List Discussion + Suggestions

#14 Post by Kirkinson » Fri Apr 13, 2018 9:50 pm

This was a good time to discover that Kira Muratova's The Asthenic Syndrome is on demand from Amazon for just $0.99, though I haven't watched it there and have no idea how it looks.

This is an extreme long shot, but I would love to know if anyone has a lead on any Lana Gogoberidze films with English subtitles. Many years ago an ex-girlfriend and I were planning out a syllabus for a class on women film directors she was going to pitch to the NW Film Center (where she worked at the time). In doing research I was very surprised at how omnipresent Gogoberidze seemed to be in feminist film writing during the 80s, considering how much her international profile seems to have evaporated since then. I've been really curious about her work ever since, but I've only ever encountered it in unsubtitled Georgian or Russian.

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Re: Women Directors List Discussion + Suggestions

#15 Post by Red Screamer » Fri Apr 13, 2018 11:18 pm

domino harvey wrote:A director born biologically male but publicly identifying as female at the time of production is eligible (so Jupiter Ascending is eligible, but Bound isn’t)
I'm curious why this is the case. My understanding is that most transgender people consider their current gender identity to be correct throughout their entire lives, including before they came out or transitioned or what have you. Obviously there are also exceptions, like gender fluid people, as well.

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domino harvey
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Re: Women Directors List Discussion + Suggestions

#16 Post by domino harvey » Fri Apr 13, 2018 11:27 pm

The marker of "woman director" means nothing anyway, so this is the equivalent of going by IMDB's year for the decades list &c-- a way of being consistent and clear with what is considered a film directed by a woman. It's this or exclude all but biological women, so I chose the more inclusive option

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swo17
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Re: Women Directors List Discussion + Suggestions

#17 Post by swo17 » Fri Apr 13, 2018 11:36 pm

Disappointed the rule isn't "feels like it could've been directed by a woman"

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Saturnome
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Re: Women Directors List Discussion + Suggestions

#18 Post by Saturnome » Sat Apr 14, 2018 1:55 am

I started watching a lot of films directed by women two months ago, for no particular reason other than "hey, I'll do that", it's a good way to go through the keyvip as any other way. So it's great that there's this list, I may participate. I'll just throw a bunch of short thoughts here, as I won't get the occasion to talk about these films otherwise.

I got through the Women Filmmakers Flickey Alley set, and the best feature films are Germaine Dulac's. I've also seen Dulac's Le Diable dans la ville (1924) which was disapointing, despite a few great shots and some cartoony sets and costumes (there's like, a 10% of art deco minimalism that went into these sets, it looks great sometimes). For a rare but worthwhile Dulac I'd go with L'initiation au voyage (1927). Going back to the Flickey Alley set, Marie-Louise Iribe's Le Roi des Aulnes was nice enough, a dark, minimalist fantasy film that may be a scary kid film made scarier by it's creaky early talkie style, though it's a must if you like these old transparent-people special effects.

Marie Epstein's La Maternelle (1933) I liked a lot, for some reason it's great to see some 1930s french cinema dealing with social subjects (here, children education in poor neighborhoods, it even deals a bit with children sucide). Too bad it wasn't on the Flicker Alley set, as was initially promised, it would have been the best feature length film. Certainly better than A Woman Condemned !

Wanda Jakubowska's Ostatni Etap (1948) is, apparently, the first narrative film done on the holocaust, and does feel like a movie done with urgency and done with guts, as it was made by Auswitch survivors. It's a very interesting film, the kind I'd call a must see without calling it a "great" film, the ending is especially weird but was probably a necessary relief back then, with it's full on soviet montage deus ex machina.

I got into Marguerite Duras. I'm liking everything I've seen so far. I found Gerard Depardieu's scene in Nathalie Granger (1972) pretty funny. You get 40 minutes of ghostly women who barely can act on their lives, being silent outside a few very Duras-like lines and doing chores à la Jeanne Dielman, and then Depardieu comes along selling washing machines to these two women who barely react, I thought it was brilliant.

Fruit of Paradise (1970) is Vera Chytilova's darker, less pop and more abstract (!) flipside to Daisies. The first ten minutes are so incredibly good, I hate movies where the best stuff is right at the beginning, though the whole thing is full of great visuals and the soundtrack is worth the film alone. I liked it, not as much as Daisies, though, which may be my top pick for now.

I didn't like Desert Hearts (1985) one bit. It felt like some average-to-bad 80s romcom flick with a lot of the tropes I dislike to see. I'd love to see a defense of this film, as it seems a few people liked it here, but there's barely any actual discussion. Give me Fucking Amal any day over this, Criterion, please.

Was student-teacher love the only way to show lesbian love in movies before the 1960s? Because Jacqueline Audry's Olivia (1951) have a pretty similar story to Leontine Sagan's Madchen in Uniform (1931). Audry's film have an intriguing mystery aspect to it (and an actual lesbian relationship between two adults thrown in the mix!), but Sagan's film is the better one.

Sarah Maldoror's Sambizanga (1973) is a good piece of african political cinema, which feels like it wanted to start an uprising to end the Angolan war of independence (it ends with a call to arms for February 1974!). Though it's a political thriller without any tension, as we follow a prisoner's wife and some pretty useless underground resistance folks walking around and outside cities humming sad songs and failling to do pretty much anything useful. I like that !

Jackie Reynal's Deux fois (1968) is something that exist, and it seems like it is not trying to be more than that. Not sure what was the point of Zanzibar films, judging from this. I liked watching her eat I guess, but now there's a whole Youtube niche for that

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Satori
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Re: Women Directors List Discussion + Suggestions

#19 Post by Satori » Sat Apr 14, 2018 4:48 am

domino harvey wrote:The marker of "woman director" means nothing anyway, so this is the equivalent of going by IMDB's year for the decades list &c-- a way of being consistent and clear with what is considered a film directed by a woman. It's this or exclude all but biological women, so I chose the more inclusive option
It makes sense to have some kind of a rule, but wouldn’t it be easier to just say that all films credited to a female director on IMDB are eligible?

For example, I have no idea exactly when the Wachowskis started publically identifying as trans (and would have to research that to figure out the eligibility of a given film) but all of their films are currently credited to Lana and Lily Wachowski on IMDB.

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bottled spider
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Re: Women Directors List Discussion + Suggestions

#20 Post by bottled spider » Sat Apr 14, 2018 5:51 am

I didn't even know this list was happening until yesterday, and I'm already loving it. My new All Time Favourite Cinematic Moment, courtesy of The Savages (Tamara Jenkins, 2007), a movie I'd never heard of before:
SpoilerShow
They're making love on the bed, and while he's on top pounding away, she turns her head to the side and gazes into the eyes of his dog lolling on the couch, and smiles at her, and then reaches over and touches her paw!!
There's a similar moment in one of Andrea Arnold's shorts, Dog:
SpoilerShow
A teenage boy is trying to have sex with a girl on a couch abandoned on a piece of waste land. As he fumbles away, she turns to look at the boy's dog. There was something comical about the dog -- had something on its face from rooting through garbage -- which makes the girl laugh. This precipitates a horrifically violent reaction from the boy. When I saw this, I wished Arnold had gone for quiet, subtle moment instead, the girl just smiling to herself, the boy oblivious. So ultimately Jenkins delivered what I had wanted from Arnold!
Nabokov said somewhere that one of the things he liked about Chekhov's short stories is that what makes them sad is exactly what makes them funny. Not an alternation of tragedy and comic relief, but sadness in humour, humour in sadness. The same is true of The Savages -- so horribly, horribly funny.
Last edited by bottled spider on Sat Apr 14, 2018 12:35 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Satori
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Re: Women Directors List Discussion + Suggestions

#21 Post by Satori » Sat Apr 14, 2018 6:53 am

I'll second Saturnome's recommendation of Duras. I think Destroy, She Said, Nathalie Granger, and the three "India Cycle" films are all essential. I've prepared a guide for the novels and films related to India Song. While I do think that India Song is her masterpiece, I found that my appreciation for it increased exponentially by contextualizing it with the surrounding literary and filmic works.

Marguerite Duras' India Cycle

Comprised of three films—The Woman of the Ganges (1974), India Song (1975), and Son Nom de Venise dans Calcutta Desert (1976)—the India Cycle reworks themes, characters, and events from a trilogy of Duras novels from the late 1960s called the “Lol V Stein” cycle. These novels are about memory, representation, and the ways in which the past speaks to the present.

The Novels
The Ravishing of Lol Stein is about Lol’s attempts to recreate a formative experience she had while attending a ball in S. Thalia with her fiancé Michael Richardson. At some point during the ball, Michael falls in love with an older woman named Anne-Marie Stretter and leaves with her. Lol follows them and, with her friend Tatiana Karl, observes them until the sun rises and the ball ends. Years later Lol returns to the town of S. Thalia and renews her friendship with Tatiana. She tries to recreate her experience watching Michael and Anne-Marie by following Tatiana and her lover around, spying on them from a rye field outside their hotel room. The ball is something of a primal scene, both for Lol and the series itself, which expands outward from this moment.

Each of the novels experiments with narration and the representation of female subjectivity. In The Ravishing of Lol Stein and The Vice-Counsel, the reader only has access to the female characters (Lol Stein and Tatiana Karl in the former and Anne-Marie Stretter and a Beggarwoman from Calcutta in the latter) through the first-person narration of the male characters. Ravishing is narrated by Jack, the lover of Lol’s best friend Tatiana Karl and eventually of Lol herself. So the reader never has access to Lol, only Jack’s projections of Lol. In The Vice-Counsel, a British visitor to Calcutta is writing a fictionalized account of the life of a beggar women who follows around Anne-Marie Stretter, who is now married to the French ambassador. Interspersed with these chapters (written from the writer’s perspective) are chapters narrated in the third person describing the events of another ball, this time given by the ambassador and Stretter. They invite the former Vice-Counsel of Lahore, a mysterious man who recently and inexplicably ordered soldiers to shoot lepers and dogs, necessitating his removal from his post. In this novel, characters are continually speculating on the reasons for his insane act of violence, but we are denied any access to his subjectivity except through his words and actions. Similarly, while nearly every character in the book lusts after Anne-Marie Stretter, we are never given insight into her thoughts, motivations, or feelings.

These novels are working toward the medium of cinema: their narration becomes increasingly cinematic as it purges the internal thoughts of the characters. Like bodies on a screen, the characters become legible only though their actions and dialogue. This reaches its peak in the novel L’Amour, in which the narrator’s voice is stripped to the absolute minimum, a bare description of setting and actions. The characters are unnamed, but they are versions of Lol Stein, Micheal Richardson, and perhaps Tatiana Karl. The novel reads more like a play or a film script, making Duras’ transition into film an absolute necessity.

The Films
Woman of the Ganges (1974)
The crucial hinge point in the Lol V. Stein/ India Cycle, Woman of the Ganges is not only the first film in the cycle, but also begins to expand outward from the zero-point of L’Amour. Duras states in a voice-over at the beginning (over a black screen) that Ganges consists of two films: the “image film” and the “film of the voices.” The “image film” is an adaptation of L’Amour, largely played through a series of still images. Characters, including versions of Lol Stein and Michael Richardson, walk in and out of the frame and occasionally speak to each other obliquely, much like in the novel. The camera becomes the narrator in the image film, capturing the words and actions of the filmed bodies but keeping the viewer at a distance, which is heightened by the lack of camera movement and use of long takes.

The image film is joined by the “film of the voices,” however, which Duras insists is not merely a supplement to the images but is in fact the primary text. This dual structure plays on the logic of identity and difference: the image-film and the film of the voices are separate films joined together through a single strip of celluloid or digital file. They are different but the same; radially autonomous but yet inseparable (at least until Venise dans Calcutta Desert).

The “film of the voices” consists of two women having a conversation while the image film plays. They do not narrate what is happening on screen, nor do they provide any insight into the psychology of the characters. Their narration takes the form of a dialogue, something that has been central to Duras’ written work since the late 1950s (such as in Moderato Cantabile). In their dialogue, the women discuss the events of the ball previously recounted in The Ravishing of Lol Stein. The film of the voices thus allows a journey into the past while the image film remains fixed to the present (with the exception of a photograph that also allows the image film to invoke the past). This “dual film” allows for a juxtaposition of past and present that is key to all of Duras’ film work.

The film of the voices is also a radical break from the narrational strategies employed in Ravishing and, to a lesser extent, The Vice-Counsel. While those novels filtered the subjectivities of women through the words of men, the film of the voices consists of two female voices who form a counter-narration to that of the camera. They are not associated with any of the women in the image film, but exist on another plane of representation that cannot be captured by the camera. This is crucial because it allows for a form of free-flowing female desire and sexuality that is not accountable to either the male characters or the cinematic apparatus itself. As the dialogue plays out, the women switch places—the one who asked questions earlier begins to answer them later—suggesting a fluidity of identity itself. They also explicitly express desire for each other, opening up a queered form of desire as an alternative to the heterosexual desire recounted in the Lol Stein story.

The film of the voices seems to finally break free from the representational chains Duras had been progressively dismantling in each of her novels. After completely hollowing out subjectivity in L’Amour, Woman of the Ganges allows Duras to begin exploring a new, utopian form of narration which might allow for new forms of female subjectivity.

India Song (1975)
Duras’ masterpiece, India Song is largely an adaptation of The Vice-Counsel, beginning with the ball held at the ambassador’s home and ending with Anne-Marie Stretter’s trip to the islands. The ball is preceded by a prologue that sets up the events and characters in an abstract way, giving us a bit of Lol’s story to remind us that the ball in The Vice-Counsel is a narrative repetition of the ball in The Ravishing of Lol Stein. Indeed, the Vice Counsel himself is something like Lol: they each spend the majority of the ball watching Stretter and both cry out in anguish near the end of the ball. The prologue also begins to set up the larger political context of the film: it begins with the song of the beggar woman, a central character in The Vice-Counsel who is both a double of Stretter and an absent presence situating the narrative within the context of European colonialism.

The film of the voices in the prologue also features two women narrating the characters and events, repeating the strategy of Woman of the Ganges. Once again, their desire for each other reflects and is displaced onto the image film. The film of the voices will shift as the image-film goes on, however, replacing the two women with an array of disembodied voices attributed to the characters attending the ball. Unlike in Ganges, which maintained a distinction between the dialogue in the film of the voices (the two women) and the dialogue within the image film (attributed to the characters), here all the dialogue and narration is disembodied. Conversations between characters might play over the images of the characters—most notably a conversation between Stretter and the Vice Counsel—but there is no attempt to create the illusion that they are actually speaking. The effect is a more radical disjuncture between sound and image, an experiment that will reach its apotheosis in Duras’ next film.

The prologue is largely about establishing the desire of the Vice Counsel for Anne-Marie Stretter. Duras seems to be interrogating the representational possibilities of desire in a couple of different ways. The prevalence of mirrors in the mise-en-scene signals this interest in representation, something that will become even more important during the ball sequence. In fact, the mirrors remind me a bit of how Douglas Sirk uses them: they estrange the action taking place, reminding us of that the performances of the characters and actors are dramatic constructions. Appearance is stressed, not psychological depth.

There is a shocking moment in the prologue in which Duras uses a shot/reverse-shot, something that happens nowhere else in this film and almost nowhere in any of her films. The Vice Counsel is standing and watching Stretter, Michael Richardson, and a third man laying down on the floor. We get a cut from the three laying on the floor back to Stretter staring at them. This comes right after a sequence in which Stretter reveals one of her breasts, as do the two men. In this shot/reverse shot segment, desire is constructed visually in that way that Hollywood cinema represents it: the male gaze at the female body. While Hollywood’s gender politics are deconstructed through the appearance of the male bodies as objects for the gaze, the scene is still about visual desire.

But this scene is immediately followed by a sequence in which the Vice Counsel walks outside and touches a bicycle belonging to Stretter (an object that is central to the novel). Here, desire is displaced onto an object. It seems to me that Duras is commenting on the process of fetishization within visual representations of desire within film. Then, at the film’s climax, the Vice Counsel’s anguished scream directed toward Stretter provides yet another representational mode for desire. Now desire is completely disembodied, separated from the Vice Counsel himself, who remains off-screen.

The Mise-en-scene of the ball scene is meticulous: the camera setups are positioned in relation to the mirrors so that it is sometimes difficult to distinguish between the actors and their reflections. Often a character will walk out of the frame, only to be picked up by a mirror so that we continue to see them after they leave the camera’s range. The image-film is itself as kind of reflection of the film of the voices: much of the dialogue takes the form of overheard conversations about the different characters, especially rumors about the Vice Counsel. In place of the two women narrating the prologue, the ball sequence features a kind of collective narration that fits with the style of The Vice-Counsel, in which Duras provided narrative information through conversations at the ball that are rarely attributed to a specific individual.

The film of the voices shifts once again in the final segment, in which Duras herself speaks in dialogue with a male voice. This sequence radically expands the frame of the film, situating it within a historical context: 1937. The film of the voices makes reference to events in China, Russia, Japan, and Spain, reminding us of the larger events surrounding the ball. This also provides plenty of fodder for explicit political interpretations of the film, especially in relation to colonialism.

Son Nom de Venise dans Calcutta Désert
(1976)
By taking the entire soundtrack of India Song and overlaying it with new images, Duras insists upon both the primacy and the autonomy of the “film of the voices” in a way that far exceeds her previous films. With one exception near the end of the film, the image-film is also completely emptied of actors, placing the dialectic of presence and absence at the center of the film. In some ways this merely extends some of the experiments in the previous films: the Vice Counsel is off-screen during his horrible cry and the two women narrators always remain off-screen in both films.

The mise-en-scene itself is now more decayed, cracked, and broken down than during the opulent ball in India Song, suggesting that a significant amount of time has passed. On the one hand, this reinforces the central theme of the entire cycle: Ravishing is about Lol’s attempt to return to the ball and her desire for Stretter and Richardson’s unity. Here the absence can be filled with psychological projections from the previous film as we “remember” the previous set of images. Since we can never remember them exactly—even when the film of the voices makes reference to the red bicycle, for instance—we are in fact creating a new film in which our faulty memories of India Song join with the images of Calcutta Desert itself. Much like Lol, we are approaching but never arrive at our past (our past here being the viewing of India Song).

I think there is potentially an even more interesting reading, though, that has to do with the political context of India Song. Perhaps what we are seeing is the broken down remnants of European colonialism after the British (and hence the French ambassadors and vice counsels) have left. The ruins of the mansion that formerly housed elaborate balls signal an absence that is being filled with the ghosts of colonialism that still haunt these spaces. The film of the voice’s obsessive replay of the “glory days” of colonialism is something like a neocolonialism at the level of desire. Or perhaps it is a replay of the breakdown of the colonial system? The vice counsel’s cries shatter the façade of the colonial bourgeoisie while the song of the beggar woman that begins and ends the film signals the coming of something new. We begin the film with shots of cracked pavement and the mise-en-scene contains many shots of broken glass, suggesting that the structures of the colonial bourgeoisie have indeed been shattered. In this reading, the film is an allegorical replay of Lol’s obsessive return to the moment in which her and Richardson’s marriage plans fell apart. The lost object of desire for the film of the voices is then not the colonial system itself, but the moment in which that system collapsed.

Yet all of this decay and destruction is complemented by a radical reunification near the end of the film: the actress playing Lol in Woman of the Ganges (Nicole Hiss) and Delphine Seyrig (who plays Stretter in India Song) appear on screen, first in a two-shot, then a pair of one-shots, and then back to a two-shot in silhouette. Given the trajectory of the entire Lol Stein/India cycle, reuniting Lol and Anne-Marie Stretter in the same space is a radical act. Since the cycle begins with Lol’s complicated desire for Stretter and her attempt to replay the primal scene of her replacement by Stretter, putting them together brings the entire cycle to a close. What are we to make of this? We could read it as the death of desire as a result of it being satisfied: what Lol desired was her desire for Stretter and Richardson, so actually allowing her to reunite with Stretter brings that desire to an end. This fits with a comment Duras made at one point that this film was in part her way of finally “killing” Stretter.

But I am an optimist and think we could read the sequence another way: Lol’s reunification with Stretter is a return to wholeness, perhaps the wholeness of the maternal. If Lol’s desire in Ravishing was always articulated through a male narrator, now she is allowed a non-linguistic, inexpressible subjectivity that might open the door for unrepresentable forms of desire. The two-shot establishes their unity, the two one-shots insist upon their individual subjectivities, and then the two-shot in silhouette places them together again but shields them from the gaze of the camera (itself a form of narration). I think this ending is the visual counterpoint to the utopian form of narration Duras discovered with her two female narrators in Woman of the Ganges. Desire is unleashed but refuses to be pinned down through representation.

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domino harvey
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Re: Women Directors List Discussion + Suggestions

#22 Post by domino harvey » Sat Apr 14, 2018 7:33 am

Satori wrote:
domino harvey wrote:The marker of "woman director" means nothing anyway, so this is the equivalent of going by IMDB's year for the decades list &c-- a way of being consistent and clear with what is considered a film directed by a woman. It's this or exclude all but biological women, so I chose the more inclusive option
It makes sense to have some kind of a rule, but wouldn’t it be easier to just say that all films credited to a female director on IMDB are eligible?

For example, I have no idea exactly when the Wachowskis started publically identifying as trans (and would have to research that to figure out the eligibility of a given film) but all of their films are currently credited to Lana and Lily Wachowski on IMDB.
No, because this is revisionist-- these films are now credited like this because the Wachowskis have changed their names. Bound was not a film credited as being directed by women, it was a film credited as directed by two brothers who later both publicly identified as women. Since there is no moral or social judgment in identifying "women directors," excluding films in this manner does not erase or invalidate the evolving or present gender identity of the Wachowskis et al. I am fully aware that this is a complicated issue, but I encourage everyone here to try seeing this as a politically neutral rule and just move on to discussing and engaging with those films that are eligible, please

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Re: Women Directors List Discussion + Suggestions

#23 Post by NABOB OF NOWHERE » Sat Apr 14, 2018 9:09 am

Any love for Lucile Hadžihalilović and Mia Hansen-Love ?

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domino harvey
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Re: Women Directors List Discussion + Suggestions

#24 Post by domino harvey » Sat Apr 14, 2018 9:18 am

Innocence is on my provisional list, though I'm not sure how much it lives up to my memories

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swo17
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Re: Women Directors List Discussion + Suggestions

#25 Post by swo17 » Sat Apr 14, 2018 11:03 am

Her Evolution is worth a look as well.

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