Sunday, 13 March 2011

Women in Films

This interesting wee video was brought to my attention recently and I thought it was well worth sharing.  It's to do with the role of women in film or, perhaps more precisely, the way the male perspective dominates in cinema.  It's worth checking out the comments and some of the other links (I know Inge will enjoy the ones on Veronica Mars).

According to my little black book I have seen 21 films for the first time so far this year.  Of those, only 4 pass the test- Black Swan, Blame it on Fidel (review forthcoming), Unrelated (sort of review forthcoming), and Fish Tank (review forthcoming if I can be arsed- suffice to say if you haven't seen it then do so).

What's striking is not only the dearth of prominent roles that 50% of the population can identify with but also how we accept as 'normal' the dominance of the male narrative.  A James Bond film is as clear a commentary on masculinity as anything else (what man out there hasn't tried the pose) but we think of it as a kind of default entertainment, almost gender neutral and no reason why it shouldn't appeal to everyone.  Even when we see female leads, it is rare for men to be excluded entirely- the same cannot be said of the reverse.  

Part of the problem is the lack of women elsewhere in the industry.  Women make up only 7% of directors and of the 4 examples I gave above, 3 of them were the only films I have seen by female directors this year.  Things might be changing- of the Time Out 100 best British films referenced in a previous post there were 4 films by female directors, an improvement of 4 on the 1999 BFI poll and all of which were made in the last 20 years.  Some feel that the solution lies in the championing and funding of female writers and film-makers, with the closure of the UK Film Council making this more difficult.   There may be some merit in that but the fact that so many of us accept the secondary role of women in cinema is perhaps a reflection of wider societal attitudes.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Review: True Grit

And not before time.  I've no idea why it's taken me so long to see this- I like the Coen brothers and modern takes on the western- but it was only last weekend I finally sat down and watched it.  Well worth the wait it was too with the biting black humour you come to expect from the Coens, wonderfully shot and a few frights thrown in.  It's surprising that it has garnered so few awards over the past few months, especially from the excellent performances from the cast.   Much has been said of Hailee Steinfeld's performance as Mattie Ross and she deserves the plaudits.  She sells every last syllable of what is at times pretty fast, complicated dialogue and is utterly convincing- tough and determined with just the right level of vulnerability.  As everyone else has said, Jeff Bridges is equally as impressive as Cogburn, the fact that you can only pick up every other world only adds to the authenticity of the character.  Matt Damon also deserves a mention as it's only through his interaction with them that the relationship between Mattie and Cogburn really works.

My friends and I were discussing the ending over a couple of drinks in the pub afterwards (Cloisters if you're wondering- if you don't know it then really should go some time and give me a shout).  One of them was wondering whether the epilogue was really necessary and I am certainly often critical of films that feel like they go on five or ten minutes too long (or in the case of the Stieg Larsson trilogy about 4 1/2 hours).  However, in this instance the epilogue really added something to our understanding of the film [SPOILER ALERT]; not only about how Hattie was shaped, physically and mentally, by the experience but also how Cogburn was.  He leaves the old ways behind, we don't know for certain why- maybe he feels too old, perhaps he came too close to death, for the first time maybe he felt a productive purpose in his life rather than a destructive one (when he replaces his horse I was reminded of Major's speech in Animal Farm "Man is the only creature that consumes without producing...he is too weak to pull the ploough, he cannot run fast enough to catch rabbits.")  Or perhaps times just change- the film ends not just with his death but that of the Wild West itself.

Anyway, well up there with the best of the Coen brothers and, for me, much more rewarding that the distinctly ok King's Speech.