That’s why I’m suggesting there’s a core denial in a lot of people that requires a certain opening of the eyes, the heart, the mind.
Loki and Wildfire- Thanks for re-examining my posts in this thread. I think my words have been twisted a bit, which is fine and is the nature of a discourse that is a) on the internet and b) stretching over many pages. Still, thanks for looking at them again- especially the much debated comment about “making films like a man”. The post this originated from was asking Bob Stutman if he agreed with the common conception of some film critics that Wertmuller has a man’s “cinematic eye”, and it ended up being twisted back in some way that made me sound very disparaging of woman’s cinematic vision. Glad to know someone caught that that wasn’t what I meant. I think part of the problem of this thread, and perhaps any film discussion, is that a substantial part of an argument for a film or director is going to be largely subjective, based on a person’s aesthetic, intellectual and narrative taste- again, thank you both for recognizing that.
Loki-when I said the “concept of a lack of great female directors” I believe it was directly quoting something Justin had said earlier. I agree that it is too broad of a statement and would need much more substantiation, which I’m not prepared enough to argue.
Bob- Thanks for the reply on Wertmuller. I agree with you completely- I’ve always found the ‘male vision’ side of Wertmuller criticism hard to swallow. Certainly ‘Swept Away’ is one of the most difficult films to place a concrete reading on, at least in my cinematic experience. It deals unflinchingly with gender, sexuality, class, and politics without giving priority to any of them and therefore showing just how intertwined these issues are. As for her portrayal of women, it strikes me that the many male directors who have portrayed men as ‘undignified’ would never have had film critics take issue with it, which is terribly unjust to Wertmuller and any other female director who has the unfair gauntlet of a feminism perspective expected of her. I also hope that Criterion picks up her films- and thank you for identifying the issue at the heart of the thread: “why do competent, exciting, and innovative female directors still get less recognition than their male counterparts?” That is really what I sent out to get an answer to.
Nothing “difficult” on placing a "concrete reading on “Swept Away” or anything else by Wertmueller. She’s a reactionary. She has about as much to do with feminism as Alice Rosenbaum or Leni Riefenstahl.
The word “reactionary” is reactionary.
Lord, this thread is becoming an enormous time-suck! But anyways:
>“So explain what you meant by that: “be like a man.””
>Again, you are claiming I said things I didn’t. You and others said that the first great filmmaker will have to be like a man, which is so inherently reductive and sexist that all I could say in response is to restate what you said with a question mark and then answer it by saying “shame on you.”
OK, here’s where I’m going to insist on specifics. When did I say a women director has to be like a man? Please quote it and we’ll talk.
>Because although you say you believe it in passing, everything else you say on this thread contradicts and overturns it and speaks to a deep need to put women on a lower plane than men. It’s as simple as making room for them. It doesn’t mean you have to dislike or get rid of the men. Not at all.
Ditto. If you’re going to call me a sexist and tell me to practise saying something in the mirror like a daddy scolding his little girl, then back it up, Charlie! Then, let’s talk.
Loki, I agree with your whole Seven Beauties post. And I’m quite excited to watch some Wertmuller after this thread! If I like her films, or if I hate them… if she’s stirred up this much discussion she’s worth watching.
>Because it is preposterous — and it bugs me — when someone says no female director ranks with a male.
Nobody has said that no female can’t rank with a male. I don’t think any (of the few) Canadian films I’ve seen are as good as the best French films, but it doesn’t mean they don’t exist or can’t exist. See the difference?
And I have never stated this as a “fact”. Please find me a quote before you make accusations.
Re: reactionary! Ha, Loki – yes! I was thinking about Rik from The Young Ones the first time someone said this word, but I held my tongue.
This thread has remained entirely within the dreary realm of identity politics, people bickering that some filmmakers must be upheld as great on moral/emotional grounds rather than on aesthetic ones, and no one has tried to confront the opposite possibility:
What if the modern conventional wisdom is simply wrong? What if male and female talents and capabilities ARE NOT the same? What if a masculine orientation is inherently better suited to certain activities and art forms, and what if cinema is one of those? And what if the technological particularities of cinema, (arranging scenes and moments of time to be captured by a machine), are indeed inherently male-biased as a mode of perception?
Why is it that whenever the conversation is getting heated (ie. interesting) on a particular thread, someone has to come in and reframe it by putting down all of the previous posters as boring and/or infantile? Has anyone else noticed this? Isn’t that kind of boring and/or infantile? I’m honestly interested.
Your point, however, Orpheus is interesting. I think it’s absolutely wrong, but I have a feeling you’re trying to stir up a bit of ire and I’m going to let someone else address it because I’m getting a bit exhausted from all this typing!
Wildfire: Yeah, it’s boring and infantile… go see the Wertmuller films, you’ll see why she’s both loved and hated. It does seem that while a male can make a film that makes fun of men and puts them down Wertmuller can’t do the same about women, which is odd.
JV: “I feel like you are refusing to open up to the possibilities of a female artist speaking to you.”
I’m sorry that is a rather undelicate, condescending thing to say unless you know the person really, really well. Adraina might not like Meshes in the Afternoon…and only like westerns and war films.
Orpheus, while your opinion is worth some thought, I just can’t believe that.I’m not saying that out od some need to be politically correct or appear eveolved. I just think it has more to do with cultural legacy. Cinema is a field that is very much male dominated . It might be why not many women try their hand at directing.
I deplore all the time the lack of very capable black directors and have found myself wandering as to why that was very often. And I really believe that it’s in part due to environment…
You people can try to brush reactionary away as much as you like.
I was going say FASCIST CUNT, but I’m too nice person.
haha! apparently, you’re not!
great debate everyone. very interesting reads.
I like FASCIST CUNT a lot better. :-)
Orpheus, and are white people inherently more gifted in certain fields of the arts or politics than black people? Yes there are differences between men and women, and perhaps some traits may be as a rule stronger in one than the other but to come up with sweeping conclusions when the theory hasn’t even been put to the test,….well! The US has still to have its first female president, time was when women were thought unsuited to education at all, and many sports beyond them. They could never manage to run a marathon, they couldn’t pole vault..
Good point Loki- and for the record, I do like Meshes in the Afternoon.
Thank you all for tolerating my occasionally hectoring tone as I advocated for something I believe in passionately and as I moved to clarify my own thoughts on this important subject. I agree, Wildfire, it is an important subject.
The quote about female directors possibly needing to be like men came from something Adriana said, but she has since clarified that she didn’t mean this exactly.
Some people just hate anything that smacks of political correctness, like an allergy, and run the other way. I don’t see why that is (or rather, I guess I understand the defenses that get stirred up). I prefer calling it justice. And I do have aesthetic reasons for liking many of the female directors we’ve discussed.
I completely disagree with the idea that skill sets are gender based. In fact, along the way of this meandering and riveting discussion we inadvertently came up with as precise a definition as I’ve ever heard of what a “prejudice” is — an exclusionary opinion not based on fact. (Example: “Women drivers suck.”)
We’re asking the wrong questions. To frame the issue in terms of “women directors being as good as male directors” asks a loaded question and it channels the discourse down an avenue whose boundaries are falsely restricted from the outset. When asked in this way, the obvious right answer is yes; any dissent is automatically cast as reactionary and benighted, and the “yes” chorus proceeds on to endless self-congratulation.
If this thread is indeed here for us to “talk frankly about female directors”, why don’t we actually do so specifically, and with reference to films? Why don’t we try taking a particular female director and assessing how, if it all, we can discern a distinctly feminine approach to the material or the style? And once that is done, why don’t we try a comparison with a film my a male director that concerns a similar story or setting or approach?
But we would rather, it seems, keep on stroking each other in support of progressive values and in consolation for patriarchal wrongdoing rather than ask questions that actually lead somewhere.
The house where “Meshes of the Afternoon” was shot is on Kings Road, just off of Sunset Blvd. A few years back I was over to the place,- which hasn’t been altered in any way since the 50’s, and watched “Meshes” on video in the living room — before walking around and looking through the same window Deren used in the film.
Better than 3-D!
wow. you know everybody, and you’ve been everywhere. were you friends with maya deren too? i’m sure you were connected to her somehow.
Justin, thank you so much for pointing out that these threads serve to challenge our opinions and shape our perceptions and that something we said at the beginning of the discussion does not necessarily need to be permanently set in stone but that we are all here to learn from one another.
I understand what you have been trying to say, I think, (if not please let me know). That although there are fewer female directors of note, the ones that are important should be seen as important, and just as important as some of the important male directors (yes i know i used the word important a lot, i.e. as in the sense of “mattering much”, (dictionary.com)). I agree with you.
For example, Maya Deren. My opinion is that the way in which her films represent the female psyche could be very instrumental in understanding this debate. At Land, in particular, is a film that, to me, demonstrates a ‘feminine’ expression, in addition to being a key film made by a female filmmaker.
Within this I am also agreeing with you, Justin, that there do exist, in fact, ‘differences’ between men and women and their experience of language, expression, and communication.. This is not to say that all women are the same or all have the same way of viewing things, but that there may be recognizable similarities in women’s perceptions and experience of being alive. Wildfire pointed this out in mentioning Iragaray : “Because women open inwards, into a rather complicated system of parts, she says women are more interested in multiplicities, overlapping meanings, and complex relationships between two seemingly different objects or systems.”
Wildfire, correct me if I’m wrong, but maybe your objection to Iragaray’s statement, like mine, is that it assumes a rigid binary distinction between male and female. I believe that men can be equally open to multiplicities, complex relationships between systems etc. If that is true, it is less a matter of the differences between women and men, and more a question of their similarities, and also a question of perhaps attempting to discuss some of the ways in which women experience communication to see if there are indeed similarities, and equally, to discuss the ways in which men experience communication for the same reasons.
For example, I think I understand Adriana’s viewpoint as well (again, Adriana, please correct me if I am wrong). I believe she was posting the thread as a challenge that was meant to be left open to interpretation, not as a stance. Her first impulse was to spark a debate, not posit a rigid opinion. I guess I am saying that I think that women, perhaps slightly differently to men, open a conversation with a wider i.e. more general sense of ‘debate’, whereas men might open with a direct stance and challenge, enjoying the method of banter to challenge one another directly.
Now I know these might be considered bold statements and could be taken incorrectly, so please don’t think that I am saying men only banter and women only …… question(?). (Or, for that matter, that women can’t banter and men can’t (question)). (Here again, language seems almost inefficient. I wish there were a better word for the way in which I think women might be more ‘prone’ to approach communication – if someone knows of one that won’t seem to come to my mind now please post it!)
I hope I’ve been able to sufficiently articulate. I don’t know if I’m right about this, only hoping to open a conversation with a wide, general sense of debate.
Regarding Wertmuller, I’ve always thought of Swept Away as a pro-communist fable — is this the wrong way to approach it?
JH, thank you for your thoughtful and detailed post. I’d like to hear what others think before jumping in. I’m actually not certain how much anatomical differences play into perceptual or mental or communicative differences. I think we have to factor in a certain amount of shame which children of both genders learn in this society regarding their bodies and their sexuality.
Drew, I just saw this thread. My suggestions to add to your list would be two of Agnès Varda’s earlier films: Cléo de 5 à 7 and Le Bonheur. As for Lina Wertmüller’s, I’d recommend The Seduction of Mimi, Love and Anarchy, Swept Away and Seven Beauties.
I own Cleo, and its your typical french film.
I am becoming very interested in Wertmuller, though. I think I may have to invest in a abox set of her work.
Justin, I think saying that Swept Away is pro-communist is too easy. Though it definitely has a communist leaning, part of the genius of the film is that Wetmuller is constantly playing with the audiences’ sympathies, without glorifying or denouncing either side. For example, we spend the whole first quarter of the film empathizing with Genarrino, but then the ‘rape’ scene comes along and the whole situation is thrown into tumult.
It’s certainly a fable, but the subtle way that Wertmuller shows each side to be flawed keeps it from being too ‘pro’ anything.
That’s a great point, Adriana. She certainly has some political context for the sex, which is more than can be said for the Madonna-Guy Ritchie remake.
Orpheus M.:::: To frame the issue in terms of “women directors being as good as male directors” asks a loaded question and it channels the discourse down an avenue whose boundaries are falsely restricted from the outset.
This is pretty much what I was trying to communicate earlier but I’m afraid I just encouraged further mulling because of my passive ambiguity and by not being nearly as succinct. (and that’s not to spite some of the interesting discussion that followed!) I like your suggestions as well. Although I don’t really trust my knowledge or reading of film to lead such a discussion nor have the confidence for it really.
I think it could also be interesting in reading some film analysis informed by Judith Butler’s theories of gender performance and construction. It may provide a language for one way of reading gender in film without resorting to the essentialist or totalizing delineations of the film men make as opposed to the films women make.
I was born in 1947 so technically I could have met Maya Deren as a child.
But I didn’t.