I think Sofia Coppola is great. Truly, truly great. But she’s a fucking Coppola. She grew up on movie sets and Francis Ford Coppola produces every one of her films. I want to see a female director who comes out of nowhere make an amazing, original screenplay film. It’s bound to happen eventually, right?
Er, i’m not sure Truffaut was quite so great anyway. Generally downhill after the first few years, i’d say. I think you may be taking the penile function, dick sticking out issue a bit far, Justin, but perhaps many manager/business/producer/director/v.i.p types think like that, and perhaps there’s something Freudian and subconscious with others among us too. Anyway, though i’m not Varda’s biggest fan, her Pointe Courte certainly deserves more recognition. That shows she was already a great gleaner as well as influence on Resnais’ famous films among others. But then, history has always been written by the powerful and winners, often at the expense of the true inventors and creators (a national as well as gender thing). Perception does count for a lot, especially with something subjective like films.
It’s highly subconscious for everyone who’s ever had a mother, right? We can take it back that far. What does a mother do? She gives you milk. She comforts. She consoles. That’s under ideal circumstances, okay. Now, you go to a film that’s made by a woman — on some deep level, it can only be so-so. It can’t shake you up too much, it can’t be great — because mother is behind that camera. And mother’s job is to keep you pacified and happy. We all belittle women too much — even other women belittle each other too much, because it’s still a very threatening thing in this culture to put the female psyche on the same level as a male’s.
Yes i get that, i largely agree, and i want to fight it, when i found out Crialese was a man the film Golden Door went down a notch in my estimation. Now that probably shows i was previously over-compensating for a mere woman rather than being anti-sexist. Still, films that that keep me pacified and happy sound very rewarding, the problem sounds like it’s that they’re not expected to be earth-shattering, monumental or too challenging. For me, Jeanne Dielman may seem a quiet understated film but its audacity and accomplishment are vast
Godard, Fassbinder… once again, they’re originals. No one’s making excuses. And I agree about Varda. The minute I read through some of these posts, I immediately thought, ‘Varda?’. I see parallels in the histories of Riefenstahl and D.W. Griffith for that matter.
The point I made with my post was that any artist should aspire to forge their own legacy/path or what have you. Maya Deren? Lina Wertmuller? Deren, Riefenstahl, Varda… all these people were taught in my film history and classical film theory courses. And believe it or not, Wertmuller still works to this day.
Besides, this whole thread assumes director as the only worthy position in film. Personally, I find auteur theory bloated and flawed in that sense. Aside from all the legendary actresses, you have Eiko Ishioka, Thelma Schoonmaker, Edith Head, Margaret Booth, Christine Vachon, Pauline Kael, Dede Allen… all these people have contributed significantly to cinema and some were/are monsters in every right.
it’ll take radical proclamations. yes, saying that varda is as great as truffaut is the first step. i also agree that truffaut isnt so great anyway, so it should be even more easy to say varda is his equal, and his precursor also.
Yes, Jung Ji Sung, and it was such achievers in different aspects of cinema that made me question why not more women directors. Dziga Vertov gave himself top billing in Man with a Movie Camera (the cameraman himself-not the only one, mind- was the star not the auteur and he couldn’t get what Vertov was really up to) but his wife played a huge part.
Now if Sight and Sound (and similar distingushed publications) had as many women participating in its polls each decade it would be interesting to see the result, just as it would if they had a perfectly fair national + geographical representation. But that might shake up accepted wisdom and possibly the dominance of the very large + egotistical Kane. They failed dismally when i pushed them last time. I’m tempted to go off and check all the women’s top 10s and see what the overall result is. In any event too many of them have been Anglo-American.
What if someone honestly doesn’t believe that Varda is as good as Truffaut, or any of the other directors mentioned? I don’t. I’ve enjoyed her work, and think that she’s a noteworthy director, but I’d hesitate to rank her among other greats that I admire. Is that automatically sexist? The issue of film departments is hard to pin down, because a film department can only work with what film industries provide them. If it happens that there are few female directors, should film departments start elevating those few simply because they are female? I don’t think so.
I say this believing that there have been some very good, if not great, female directors in our history.
Jung Ji Sung – I think the original purpose of this thread was to talk specifically about the lack of women as directors, not the lack of women contributing to cinema as a whole. You are completely right, in other areas of film women have been at the forefront (I would say editing being the most powerful of positions were women were the majority).
And I’m a little confused by all this talk about Agnes Varda. The question posed was why there aren’t women mentioned in the same breadth as a Kubrick or a Hitchock. While Varda may be good, who has even heard of Agnes Varda? I mean, film academics and cinephiles yes but step outside the world of this website and ask your mailman what his favorite Agnes Varda film is? He’s likely to stop delivering your mail and report you to a psychiatric hospital. Most of the general public (at least in the United States) don’t know these names and that’s why they don’t get mentioned with the likes of Martin Scorsese or Stanley Kubrick. Because pretty much everyone can name one Scorsese film (or at least knows of his films).
thats a false argument. people dont know varda’s name because no one in the establishment (press, academia) is rating her highly. the public knows scorsese because hes been fed to them. not because they went out and found him. “who has even heard of agnes varda?” you just hit on the very point of our complaints! why isnt she being talked about among the greats?
no, it doesnt make you a sexist automatically if you dont think varda’s films are that good. but plenty of people do think her films are good, and she does have some respect among tastemakers. problem is, the tastemakers are more inclined to promote the great men of cinema. because the tastemakers are men! and besides, we’re all brainwashed to prize men over women anyway, as an initial subconscious action.
films departments have plenty to work with. its their job to dig up stuff no one else is talking about or thinking of. besides, like i mentioned, there’s a TON of women directors making great docs, alternative film/video, and feature-length movies too. they must be edified.
again, it probably takes radical statements. a sadie benning may be more important than a james benning. an agnes varda may be more important than a truffaut. a sofia coppola may be more important than a francis coppola (damn right i said it, all you dogmatics!). an ida lupino may be more important than an anthony mann (couldnt resist the symbolism in his name!). again and again, until they start sinking in and people start wondering about them, and investigating, and following suit…
That’s why it comes back to perception. Hitchcock is a safe choice, Kubrick is a safe choice, Citizen Kane etc. — it’s self-perpetuating. It’s the same as thinking that Sylvia Plath is a lesser poet or Georgia O’Keefe a lesser painter. You have to be willing to fight against ingrained sexism — because the problem is not with the quality of the art, but rather the way it maps out a woman’s reality. If you think that’s a less significant reality than a man’s, then that’s on you.
“Why isn’t she being talked about among the greats?”
That’s easy! Because people haven’t seen her films! haha. You can’t say she’s great unless you’ve seen her work and most people haven’t seen her work.
And saying Sofia Coppola may be more important than Francis is about as offensive as anything I’ve ever heard. You can’t argue that Lost in Translation is more important that The Godfather, can you? God, I hope not. In which case you’re basing her importance on the fact that she’s a woman, not because of the quality of her films, which I think even she would be insulted at.
I’m more than happy to promote films directed by females however only if the films are good. One of the best films I saw last year was Ellen Kuras’ film The Betrayal, a film nobody saw (although I was happy to see it get nominated for Best Documentary at the Oscars).
I can understand someone preferring Lost in Translation to The Godfather. You might get tired of films that glory in male violence. It is possible, after all.
I don’t think either one is so hot. I prefer directors with an androgynous sensibility — Wong Kar Wai comes to mind: he understands his female characters as deeply as his men, and in fact he goes out of his way to blend their attributes. His women sometimes “think” like men, his men sometimes “think” like women.
Ok I’ll give you the male violence thing but I’ll still take Jack over Lost in Translation (or even The Rainmaker!).
Now Youth Without Youth versus Marie Antoinette? Forget waterboarding – now there’s a choice in torture!
i have long been fascinated by the lyricism which certain female directors are able to bring to the table.
treats cinema as first-person narrative literature to a point of incomparability.
Lynne Ramsey (in only 2 films)
showed herself a consummate in understand/displaying the erosion of daily worry.
Claire Denis is a saint.
No one shows life on Earth the way she does.
No one on Earth has made films so nonplussingly beautific. She achieves an indescribable transcendence.
I’m no great fan of either Coppola. The Godfather is ranked almost top at imdb and it won the Oscar- certainly not signs of genuine greatness at all, more dare i say of covering the right bases (even if done in this case with quality). Of course that’s probably me being snobby. Whatever our personal taste, it’s surely right that the public are fed some directors as gods yet so many greats- especially outside America- are unheard of by most film-goers. I only wish i didn’t have to mention Mizoguchi’s name. Contemporary fame does not equal greatness. Vermeer the painter was neglected for ages. Even Rembrandt lapsed from fashion.
How about Eleni Karaindrou, composer for Angelopoulos. I’d almost started to think women didn’t really make the grade as composers, it’s easy to slip into sloppy thinking and stereotypes (men from Mars, women from Venus, multi-tasking v abstract thinking, whatever) . I believe in both nature and nurture, with quite a bit of individual leeway, wariness of generalisations..
Yes. I was attacked not long ago for starting a thread that assumes certain white male straight biases but it’s absolutely true that we’re not as comfortable as we should be acknowledging the importance and greatness of women, blacks, and gays (and others). Even as a gay man, I find myself doing it sometimes towards women — it’s something I feel I must work on. Catherine Breillat is as much a genius as Orson Welles. Maya Deren is as consummate an artist as Mizoguchi. The idea that Breillat and Deren are doodling in sexual margins while Welles and Mizoguchi are taking on the vast human condition is something that would drive me insane if I were female. It’s like you can never win.
There is a great Gay Cinema thread i may have to go dig up now…
Apichatpong Weerasethakul, anyone?
I agree about unhelpful views on female doodling v male important takes on human condition, it’s just the examples you give Justin aren’t exactly ones i would have chosen on either side. ahem, cough cough Leonardo da Vinci, Titian and Michelangelo rolled into one would not make a more consummate artist than Mizoguchi! Not for nothing has he been compared to Bach, Shakespeare and Titian as the summit of cinema.
Agnes Varda seems to be underappreciated on this forum. The two least interesting of the Nouvelle Vague directors (you know who they are: Go…Tru…) have muscled the more talented directors aside with their massive egos.
I was just talking to a friend of mine from film school (who is gay) about “gay cinema” after we went and saw the new documentary “Outrage” (which is very good by the way). Anyway, two of my favorite directors (Gus Van Sant and Pedro Almadovar) happen to be gay but I don’t think of their films as “gay cinema” (which I find to be a somewhat derogatory term). What I like about their films is that they don’t preach a particular view and in some instances, have gay characters that are extremely flawed. In the case of Van Sant, it took me a long time before it even occurred to me that Gus might be gay (which is awesome because as a filmgoer, you shouldn’t be thinking about that when watching a film).
I think this dovetails into this discussion about female directors. Should an audience watching a film be aware whether the filmmaker is black or female or straight or whatever? I don’t think so. I think a good filmmaker makes a good film, a universal film that’s not directed at one particular audience but instead touches on a human experience that anyone can identify with. I think people like Gus Van Sant and Almadovar are brilliant because they are (somewhat) mainstream even if they have a protaganist who is a gay man or a drag queen. In the case of female directors, you see some of that – they’re either making films directed mostly at women (Nora Ephran, Nancy Meyers) or they’re going to the opposite extreme to somehow prove they’re not chick-flick filmmakers (Kimberley Pierce, Mary Harron).
Speaking of gay cinema, based on this site’s recommendation I watched “Wild Tigers I have Known.” I basically watched it because Gus Van Sant produced it and it was shot in my hometown. And although there were some really interesting things about the film, you could tell it was made by someone who didn’t really know what he was doing. What Gus Van Sant or Terrence Malick does may look easy but when you see a movie like “Wild Tigers I have Known” try to emulate that particular style, it just shows how talented a filmmaker like Gus Van Sant really is (at least in terms of understanding the medium and how to communicate the language of cinema through a particular style).
Erm, was I saying that I think a woman’s art is “less than” because she can have babies? I think not. Was I saying Truffaut was a misogynist because he married his wife for her money? Yes, but so was practically everyone else in the 1960s, in some form of another. My point was that Truffaut was ruthless with his family life in pursuit of his own ambition because he could be. Woman often did not have that luxury, because societally they would not be forgiven. And I agree with Bobby that the idea of finding a “female Truffaut” is in itself ridiculous and even demeaning.
And this whole mother-behind-the-camera thing is even more ridiculous. I certainly don’t feel that way when I watch a film made by a woman, because my mother is not who I think of when I think of the word “woman”. Frankly, I think of myself. So it is, in a way, myself I see behind the camera. Actually I think of myself behind the camera whenever I watch a film, directed by a man or a woman regardless. What would I do differently? How would I tell the story?
All of that said, if I were to be completely honest, I’m not sure that I would rate Varda’s films as highly as I would rate Godard’s or Jessua’s or Truffaut’s – in the same way that I can’t rate Rivette as highly as I rate Godard or Jessua or Truffaut. I have seen most of her films. She is great, she is just not among my top ten or even twenty directors. Why? Not because she is a woman but because on a personal level, her work doesn’t really speak to me, and also I have some problems with the way she handles certain aesthetic aspects of film. It would thus be unfair for me to give her “extra points” just because she’s a woman, and I refuse to make a “radical statement” that I don’t believe is true. In a way I think it is MORE sexist and even harmful to the cause of feminism, to give female directors “bonus points” or to make “radical statements” just for the sake of advancing a (verily, important) social cause.
It really annoyed me at the Nouvelle Vague conference when almost EVERY woman speaker talked about how misogynistic the new wave was and how it was really Bardot or Marguerite Duras who were the real founders of the New Wave and how Last Year At Marienbad was REALLY written by Delphine Seyrig even though the truth is that she was hardly involved at all, except by way of the fact that she was involved with Resnais. And almost all of the men went along with it because they felt too guilty to disagree! Yes, women have been downtrodden and neglected and misrepresented, and both men and women need to be reminded occasionally that there is a lot of conscious and unconscious objectification of woman out there even now (esp. now). And a little guilt about the past is probably the best way to change it. But how are we ever going to get out from under that if we keep getting treated (and keep treating ourselves) like the victims of history? ****We are still categorising ourselves as “other” when we are really just all human beings.**** How does our art get the credit it is due if it has to get handicap points, or weird revisionism, or value only through unjustly downplaying the great art by our male counterparts? I’m sorry, but it makes women look pathetic.
This has nothing to do with my own personal desire to see more female directors. Like Adriana, on a daily basis I wish there were more. Practically, there are less women who want to be directors and practically, there are less women who get to be directors, for whatever reason or combination of reasons. Maybe it’s family obligation. Maybe it’s because we’re less likely to be the kind of Weinstein-ian ambition-driven ruthless egoists that a lot of successful directors seem to have to be to get to the top – who knows? I don’t think anyone can conclude any reasons without a proper qual research study – everything else is just opining with false certitude and a maybe a few personal but statistically worthless experiences to back it up. My own neuroscientist example included.
And maybe young women do need more role models, government funding, educational programmes, etc. When I was taking computer science classes in college my (male) Computer Science professor used to have lunches where we talked about the positive contributions females have made to computer science. We didn’t put down the male innovators, we talked about them too, and the guy students were invited and even encouraged to come to the lunches. It was great. But telling young girls that the French New Wave was started by Brigitte Bardot or that all of the Nouvelle Vague is subordinate to the artistry of Agnes Varda just perpetuates the fallacy that they are in some separate category of human that needs to be “saved”. Women (and men) can have both male and female role models. Chantal Akerman was inspired to become a film director at age 15 because of Pierrot Le Fou. We need more of that, please.
Godard and Truffaut have also made their share of bad movies. Truffaut more than Godard; but Godard’s clunkers are on par with Ed Wood’s output.
so its harmful to make radical statements to advance an important social cause? hmm. cant quite agree. i dont like tippy-toeing and whispering for change. i like busting the damn door down.
but the funny thing is, my “radical statements” stated that MAYBE a certain woman director is more important than a certain man. so women cant even get a “maybe” without it being construed as too radical, and unacceptable? wow. that says a whole lot.
“Agnes Varda seems to be underappreciated on this forum.”
i was blown away by Varda’s Le Bonheur.
True, TVCEye. True. Godard, especially. But like the little girl with the curl, when he was good, he was very very good…
Bobby – I think it’s harmful to make radical statements that aren’t really true. Because it undermines the message that you’re trying to promote.
> yes, saying that varda is as great as truffaut is the first step. i also agree that truffaut isnt so great anyway, so it should be even more easy to say varda is his equal, and his precursor also.
…was what you said. But obviously you’re allowed to think Varda is the greatest director ever if you really and truly believe it! If you really believe Sofia is better than Francis Ford – OK, cool. I dig it. Defend it. Write blogs about it. Make me believe it too.
I think it’s awesome that you and JV are carrying the feminist flag – I totally do. I just shudder inwardly when I think people might be saying such things about Varda because she’s a woman, because they want to make her into a symbol for all female directors when the whole point is that we should be evaluating all artwork on it’s own merit. Making women into female-symbols is the problem in the first place, isn’t it?
Anyway, what you’re saying is so much better than some of the stuff that’s going on on the Sasha Grey thread…
I really think there’s a lot of warmed-over Boomer-era nonsense getting into this thread. What is the inherent value of “proclaiming Varda as great as Truffaut”? To approach the matter in this way, to me, is to stop talking about cinema at all and to take up cheerleading in its stead.
Isn’t it somewhat insulting to women to suggest that if we held an election of all women to determine the greatest film of all time they’d end up choosing a work by a woman director rather than what they honestly thought to be the best film? Are we not past the point of seeing gender relations as a team sport where women have to vote for women because they’re women in any and all fields, just to even the score?
@ Justin: You really think that when someone watches a film directed by a woman they’re imagining Mom directing a film? I think this is silly. When I watch a film I’m paying attention to the story, the technique, or the filmed faces, I’m honestly not thinking about the director’s race, gender, or sexual orientation, nor am I conscious of some politically correct impulse to stick up for the underrepresented. For me, all talent is welcome, and the makers of bad films, male or female, American or European or Asian or African, can fuck off. The problem seems to arise, as I fear it is beginning to in this thread, when people start flirting with the nonsense of thinking: “This film is made by a woman, so it MUST be good. And if I don’t think it’s good, my mind is enslaved by the Patriarchy.” Your mind, in that case, in enslaved by something else.
I would love for all women filmmakers to make films as good as Lynne Ramsay’s. But quite honestly, The Notorious Bettie Page is boring, and Marie Antoinette is narratively weak, and Sweetie is stiff and awkward, and Maya Deren IS a trifling, marginal figure for whom to be compared to Mizoguchi is absurd. Quite frankly, the solution to whatever the supposed problem with women filmmakers is, is not going to be solved by cheerleading or saying “well that movie was really a B-minus, but seeing as how you’re a woman, we’ll bump you up and call it a masterpiece!” Women who want to are now able to make films, and it’s up to them to make good ones. It’s not up to me to say they’re good when they aren’t.
In the words of Orson Welles, “Come on fellows, you’re losing your heads!”
Yes, Orpheus M. I agree. But I do have a lot of respect for JV and Bobby for trying.
The problem does need a practical answer as well as a theoretical stance. I wish I had one. If I were really ready to put my money where my mouth is, I’d go to the nearest secondary school and ask the principal (er, headmaster) if they’d let me start a film extra-curricular… and then do my best to recruit the girls along with the boys… even let them use my camera and FinalCut Pro.
The best thing about Truffaut and Godard and Varda, after all, was that they got off their cans and did something about it. Which is more than I can say for myself.
“This film is made by a woman, so it MUST be good. And if I don’t think it’s good, my mind is enslaved by the Patriarchy.” Your mind, in that case, in enslaved by something else.
Well put, Orpheus M.!