Who can name a few films or directors that let the full spectrum of women shine in their movies? Scripts tend to minimize what a character is, to fit the part, and women tend to be further marginalized within the strength of their beauty.
The women I know are so much more than this and I hope to find where this simple fact is made manifest on the screen. My initial effort has turned up female director Agnes Varda who has a number of good films, I recommend her.
Thanks for any help you can provide.
If you ever get to see the early films of Frank Capra starring Barbara Stanwyck such as “Ladies Of Leisure,” “The Miracle Woman” and “The Bitter Tea Of General Yen,” you will see how a director can bring out the deepest, most personal, most painful emotions in an actress in order to show the many sides of a character and bring her close to her audience. This is decades before Ingmar Bergman did it brilliantly with Harriet Andersson, Bibi Andersson and Liv Ullman.
When you watch these old films, you have to be able to do it with an open, unprejudiced mind. What you may discover is that really fine art does not date.
A strong recommondation would be “A Woman Under the Influence”, by John Cassavetes.
Also nearly all films by Pedro Almodovar who is among other things a gifted women’s director (All about my Mother for starters)
Michelangelo Antonioni, Alfred Hitchcock, Luis Bunuel, Louis Malle
Howard already mentioned Bergman, but Liv Ullman in Scenes from a Marriage is about as “woman” as women get. (does that sound sexist, I don’t mean it to).
Also, Kyoko Kagawa in Sansho the Bailiff.
I would recommend Chang-dong Lee. His last two films “Secret Sunshine” and “Oasis” have both featured brilliant female leads.
women as people as opposed to women (no one’s ever argued that men aren’t shown as men), An Angel at My Table, L’humanite, The Wind that Shakes the Barley, alot of contemporary Japanese films that have female leads tend to show them without vivid “female” representations. Also, most Mike Leigh films create individual distinctions as opposed to gender specific notions of personality. I wouldn’t reccomend old Bergman, or old Kurosawa films.
Jonathon Demme seems to have many moves with women as (mostly strong) central characters. Silence of the Lambs. Rachel Getting Married. Married to the Mob. A women-in-prison movie. ect.
Here’s something you might not consider at first glance, but there are two films in which Teresa Wright
conveys a complexity and depth of character that was rare for the time.
In THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES (1946 William Wyler), she is impetuous and troubled, then understanding, then willful,
and ultimately the kind of calm, geneous soul you want to marry.
Earlier, in Hitchcock’s SHADOW OF A DOUBT, she is tempermental and brooding,
but then develops into astonishing maturity when she faces a truly awful dilemma.
Wright’s expressive eyes and her gestures allow you to almost “see” her thinking her way through
problems in both films. It’s amazingly subtle but effective, and it’s a shame more women
actors were not given such opportunities for subtlety and depth.
Jennifer Jason Leigh’s turn in WASHINGTON SQUARE is something to behold.
I also think that Sissy Spacek in RAGGEDY MAN goes on the list.
Thank you so much everyone, I really appreciate it. Women are fascinating when appearance is understood as a part of the whole person.
A, if not the, main theme of Mizoguchi’s films is the oppressive treatment of women, and lots of his masterpieces have women as central characters. He’s sometimes criticised for having double standards, or for unempowering portraits of a self-sacrificing ideal, but there’s actually quite a range to the personailities involved; as well as kind, compassionate, supportive, deferential and self-sacrificing, retaining dignity in suffering, resilient, wise, strong, angry, defiant, selfish, aloof, violent and much more… i could cite examples of each i have in mind but why not explore as much as you can of the great man’s work?
Godard (hahaha, just kidding)
Seriously, though, David Lynch in his most recent films (Mulholland Dr, Inland Empire) uses female characters in a non-marginalized method through their portrayal of the role of women in contemporary Hollywood, but the characters – for the most part – aren’t exactly realistic in their mannerisms.
Also, Fassbinder’s BRD Trilogy uses the role of women in society as a central focus, especially in The Marriage of Maria Braun. ANd to a lesser extent The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant
Claude Chabrol with La Ceremonie perhaps for its focus on the friendship between two women, both outsiders within society.
And, Polanski’s Repulsion
Steve: You might find something of interest (or not) on a thread I started some time ago dealing with more believable woman characters. I list some films and examples there. Here’s the link – FYI:
Besides the excellent examples given above, I would add the works of Ozu. His women characters always seem believable to me. Especially recommend Late Spring, where the daughter’s dilemma is given a full-dimensional treatment. This stars Ozu regular Setsuko Hara, who gives an unusually subtle performance here.
Antonio Pietrangeli, mostly unknown out of Italy.