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hysterical in a floral dress

von Jordany
“I have found it easier to identify with the characters who verge upon hysteria, who were frightened of life, who were desperate to reach out to another person. But these seemingly fragile people are the strong people really.” Tennessee Williams This list has been created to present those who depict women performances with a touch of insanity (accompanied by malaise) with an award which is nonexistent in film festival circles/audiences/happenings but certainly should be. It encompasses and celebrates the history of work of pain and the power of emotional freedom whether it is in performance or everyday life. It is clearly present in the… Mehr

“I have found it easier to identify with the characters who verge upon hysteria, who were frightened of life, who were desperate to reach out to another person. But these seemingly fragile people are the strong people really.” Tennessee Williams

This list has been created to present those who depict women performances with a touch of insanity (accompanied by malaise) with an award which is nonexistent in film festival circles/audiences/happenings but certainly should be. It encompasses and celebrates the history of work of pain and the power of emotional freedom whether it is in performance or everyday life. It is clearly present in the traditional dance of Tarantism (the only known cure for the bite of the wolf spider is the tarantella phenomena: a dance of uncontrolled and compulsive movements, spasms and convulsions), which is what inspired the creation of this award. It is an award which is not material or politically correct, it is just a title which would be celebrated by loyal fans who have been touched & impressed by the insanity the individuals studied & indulged into. They fabulously exploit their deranged, but temporary, state of mind in front of cameras to scare the living shit out of you and help portray the characters they are acting for more honestly. Here, camp will certainly play in part to some of the women performances because, well, how could you dismiss a totally deluded housewife nagging at her children & husband throughout a film and then suddenly hopping into a car and committing hit and runs, not to mention murder, all while seamlessly shining her white teeth at her victims, flaunting her figure and senselessly shopping for groceries and fashionable attire in between. Though, I generally prefer to witness the hysterics which erupt out of a broken heart.

A few words before I begin the listing of films which feature the intense creative outbursts/hysteria/debauchery of women in films. I have a very open mind (lack of a better phrase..), not only when it comes to women performances (open to debate and suggestions) but what I consider to be a woman not only in films but also those who portray them. In this list I don’t rule out very young performers portraying the tumult of childhood and adolescence. Technically they are not a woman but their trance still embodies characteristics which hint of an ignorance to sanity (no, breaking gender dynamics is not being hysterical, but having an overactive imagination is considered to be quite out there, or is it? After all, when nobody believes in your pain it is considered madness). There are no prejudices against or for what was being depicted (film being anti-whatever, or an awful film or even portraying women unjustly through vulgar caricatures) and there certainly will be some transgender women or drag queens who are so in real life or actors temporarily in the conscience of portraying a woman/ boy portraying a girl (an actress who is portraying a trans woman or drag queen, etc…) or even those individuals who are depicted as androgynous, because androgyny is related back to being genderqueer which is a merge of both ideologies of the binary genders (to ignore/transcend/manipulate the gender binary). Most of the time in film it is in the performance which lies the woman and not the actor, whether of the male or female sex (so don’t be surprised if I include a character in the film with no breasts or a visible adams apple). The award therefore rewards individuals who depict women and femininity in terms of what the content of the film is plus how it is shown and whether they possess a certain flair of excessive sensuality.

Since the lists are only for film titles here are the names of the individuals guilty of a technique displayed in the film which impresses and touches:
Note: This listing will only feature prominent performances.

Tina Turner (Tommy,
Anna Karina (La Religieuse,
Sheryl Lee (Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, This World, Then the Fireworks,
Margaret Hamilton (The Wizard of Oz)
Isabelle Adjani (Possession, Nosferatu: Phantom der Nacht, Queen Margot, Camille Claudel,
Holly Woodlawn (Trash, Women in Revolt,
Kathleen Turner (Serial Mom,
Tilda Swinton (Julia, Teknolust, Edward II,
Isabelle Huppert (La cérémonie, La pianiste, Ma mère, 8 femmes, Home, Villa Amalia, Me and My Sister, Malina,
Clara Choveaux (Tiresia,
Beatrice Dalle (37°2 le matin, Trouble Every Day, À l’intérieur, You and the Night
Charlotte Gainsbourg (Antichrist, Melancholia, Nymphomaniac,
Glenn Close (Fatal Attraction,
Volker Spengler (In einem Jahr mit 13 Monden,
Lili Taylor (The Addiction, I Shot Andy Warhol,
Romola Garaï (Angel,
Charlotte Rampling (Sous Les Sable, Max Mon Amour,
Divine (Mondo Trasho, Multiple Maniacs, Pink Flamingos, Female Trouble,
Edith Massey (Female Trouble, Pink Flamingos, Polyester, Desperate Living
Elizabeth Taylor (Boom!, Secret Ceremony, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Reflections in a Golden Eye,
Ruth Gordon (Harold and Maude,
Penélope Cruz (Vicky Cristina Barcelona,
Susannah York (Images,
Carrie Fleming (Jenifer,
Lucyna Winnicka (Matka Joanna od aniolów,
Marie-Josée Croze (Maelström,
Ashley Judd (Normal Life, Bug,
Roman Polanski (Le locataire,
Lauren Ambrose (Psycho Beach Party,
Linda Blair (The Exorcist,
Emmanuelle Béart (Vinyan,
Ann-Margret (Tommy,
Vanessa Redgrave (The Devils,
Asia Argento (Stendahl Syndrome, Transylvania, Une vieille maîtresse, The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things, Scarlet Diva,
Brittany Murphy (Dead Girl,
Nicole Kidman (The Others,
Juliette Binoche (Code inconnu: Récit incomplet de divers voyages, Bleu, Fatale, Les amants du Pont-Neuf,
Reese Witherspoon (Freeway,
Jennifer Coolidge (The Bad Lieutenant,
Fairuza Balk (The Craft,
Brigitte Roüan (Olivier Olivier,
Mia Kirshner (Exotica,
Julianne Moore (Savage Grace, Safe, Magnolia, Carrie
Emma Thompson (Angels In America,
Isabella Rossellini (Blue Velvet,
Katie Dickie (Red Road,
Margit Carstensen (Possession, Die bitteren Tränen der Petra von Kant,
Grace Jones (Vamp,
Romane Bohringer (Les Nuits Fauves,
Faye Dunaway (Mommie Dearest, Chinatown,
Sigourney Weaver (Death and the Maiden,
Marion Cotillard (La Vie en Rose,
John Lazar (Beyond the Valley of the Dolls,
Amy Sedaris (Strangers With Candy,
Moon So-ri (Oasis,
*Uma Thurman (Nymphomaniac, Kill Bill 1,

Adele Exarchopulos (La Vie d’Adele,
Delphine Seyrig (Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles,
Romy Schneider (L’important c’est d’aimer,
Lydia Lunch (Fingered,
Takahiro Nishijima (Ai no mukidashi,
Edith ‘Little Edie’ Bouvier Beale (Grey Gardens, Beals of Grey Gardens,
Marina de Van (Dans ma peau,
Maya Deren (Meshes of the Afternoon,
Mo’Nique (Precious, Shadowboxer,
John Cameron Mitchell (Hedwig and the Angry Inch,
Jean-Hugues Anglade (Betty Blue,
Elizabeth Berkley (Showgirls,
Sanna Bråding (A Hole in My Heart,
Virginie Ledoyen (L’eau froide,
Sook-Yin Lee (Shortbus,
Mink Stole (Female Trouble, Polyester, Desperate Living,
Tura Satana (Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!,
Angela Bettis (May,
Hyeon-a Seong (Shi gan,
Jeanne Moreau (Mademoiselle,
Jeon Do-yeon (Milyang,
Sabine Timoteo (Der freie Wille,
Assumpta Serna (Matador,
Julieta Serrano (Mujeres al borde de un ataque de nervios, Entre tinieblas,
Shiang-chyi Chen (Tian bian yi duo yun,
Iwona Petry (Szamanka,
Sophie Marceau (Ne te retourne pas, La fidélité, L’amour braque,
Amira Casar (Nuit de chien,
Ángela Molina ( Piedras, Carnages
Abigail Breslin (Little Miss Sunshine,
Carole Bouquet ( Cet obscur objet du désir,
Mirella D’Angelo (Tenebre,
Anne Hathaway (Rachel Getting Married,
Grace Zabriskie (Inland Empire, Wild At Heart, The Passion of Darkly Noon,
Laura Dern (Inland Empire, Citizen Ruth,
Eleanor Parker (Caged,
Harriet Andersson (Through a Glass Darkly,
Katrin Cartlidge (Naked,
Valeria Bruni Tedeschi (Normal People Are Nothing Exceptional,
Mieko Harada (Ran,
Deborah Kara Unger (Crash,
Liv Ullmann (Ansikte mot ansikte, Scenes From A Marriage,
Genevieve Lemon (Sweetie,
Catherine Deneuve (Repulsion, The Hunger,
Julia Schacht (Naboer,
Eva Löbau (The Forest For The Trees,
Marion Eaton (Thundercrack!,
Amanda Donohoe (The Lair of the White Worm,
María Onetto (The Headless Woman,
Glenda Jackson (The Music Lovers,
Patty Duke (Valley of the Dolls,
Bette Davis (What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, Dangerous,
Gena Rowlands (A Woman Under The Influence, The Skeleton Key, Opening Night
Rachel Weisz (The Deep Blue Sea,
Kathryn Hahn (Afternoon Delight,

Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine,
Joan Crawford (Strait-Jacket,
Ronit Elkabetz (Ve’Lakhta Lehe Isha,
Vera Farmiga (Joshua,
Elina Löwensohn (Sombre,
Sissy Spacek (Carrie, 3 Women,
Eiko Matsuda (In The Realm of the Senses,
Evelyne Ker (À nos amours,
Kate del Castillo (Julia,
Kathy Bates (Misery,
Anna Faris (Smiley Face, Scary Movie,
Candy Darling (Women In Revolt)
Aggeliki Papoulia (Dogtooth,
Erica Gavin (Vixen!,
Birgit Minichmayr (Everyone Else,
Lázaro Ramos (Madame Satã,
Susanne Sachsse (The Raspberry Reich,
Kirsten Dunst (Interview with the Vampire, Melancholia
Björk (Dancer In The Dark,
Isabelle Chasse (Martyrs,
Alison Lohman (Drag Me To Hell,
Ingrid Thulin (Cries and Whispers,
Bibi Andersson (Persona,
Amanda Plummer (Butterfly Kiss,
Ivana Karbanová (Daisies,
Theresa Russell (Track 29,
Shauna Macdonald (The Descent,
Eun-shim Lee (Hanyo,
Miss Coco Peru (Girls, Will Be Girls,
Miriam Toews (Silent Light,
Gaea Gaddy (Open,
Rue McClanahan (This World, Then the Fireworks,
Onder Acikbas (My Only Sunshine,
Lung Leg (You Killed Me First,
Mia Farrow (Secret Ceremony, Rosemary’s Baby,
Joanne Woodward (The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds,
Jennifer Jason Leigh (Georgia,
Sandrine Bonnaire (Jeanne La Pucelle I & II,
Naomi Watts (Ellie Parker,
Victoire Thivisol (Ponette,
Mary Bronstein (Yeast,
Machiko Ono (The Mourning Forest,
Magdalena Montezum (The Death of Maria Malibran,
Kristin Wiig (Bridesmaids,
Carmen Maura (What Have I Done To Deserve This , Pepi, Luci, Bom , Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown,
Anna Paquin (Margaret,

FYI: Film titles will sometimes be listed without any cast member listed. This is because it either contains a large cast of women which commit a frantic kaleidoscope of chaos or have minor performances/scenes/emotional influence.

To be continued, because this list is always in progress…..
I have not seen every film out there or even remember all of the performances in the ones I have already seen, so please always suggest those which you believe contain that oh so special touch. Keep in mind the films have to be in Mubi’s database.

I’d like to comment also on the ways this list can be perceived. I’m a Fine Art student and so I have had my lessons in art history (with a focus on feminist art). The common theory of women’s association with nature, the mystical and well irrational or intuitive is not what this list is promoting, whether you do or do not agree. For some clearer defining of my original intentions I will quote from Whitney Chadwick’s, “Women Artist’s and the Surrealism Movement” in reference to a mental breakdown in Leonora Carrington’s life: "Orenstein, following a Feminist model that has attempted to revise traditional definitions of madness and sanity as they relate to women’s experience, has argued that Carrington’s “breakdown” might be more accurately viewed as a “break-through” to new levels of psychic awareness." It is in the tradition of subversive acts such as those in this list that have produced interventions of horror within these social constructs of oppressive circumstances; it is a celebration of the physical act of feeling, the desire to express something deep and of acknowledging the subversive perspective of that desire. I am interested in understanding the tradition of femininity with its stereotypical assumptions about women and men. The word hysteria itself is linked to the use of feminine in language; a feminine word for crazy, which is used conveniently (mostly by men) to demean women as victims of emotion and lost within their own minds and sexuality. So the word has taken on a complicated history since early medicine and today presents conflicting opinions verging on contradiction. I am not only appropriating it with traditions/rituals and art/film history but hopefully creating more dialogue about the roles of women/femininity in film/art.

For those interested in Tarantism, read here pgs.67-70 for an elaborate definition, or for Female Hysterics read something about it in this Wiki page. My favorite part is where they describe the conditions in which a woman would be considered hysterical: exhibited a wide array of symptoms including faintness, nervousness, insomnia, fluid retention, heaviness in abdomen, muscle spasm, shortness of breath, irritability, loss of appetite for food or sex, and a tendency to cause trouble. Enjoy!

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