#52FilmsByWomen: January

As mentioned in my 2015 recap, I've joined the #52FilmsByWomen challenge, meaning I'm watching 1 female-directed film per week for the entire year, and I'm also doing monthly recaps of the films I watch. This is my first one, and I have a pretty diverse bunch of films to discuss! Find out what I watched after the cut.

Thirteen (2003)
Directed by Catherine Hardwicke 
While men and women have a lot more in common than society gives credit for, the fact is that both do have separate experiences, and women writers and directors can add little touches to their female characters that most men wouldn't know to include. This film had a lovely instance of this. There's a very brief shot, only a few seconds long, of Tracy's face after an argument with her mom. The exact look on her face is one I know so well from being a teenager-that inward battle of "my mom is doing her best and I can't believe how awful I'm treating her", and "well things suck for me right now and I need to blame someone". It seems like an insignificant detail, but it really made me feel connected to Tracy, even as her experiences veered further and further away from anything I can personally relate to.
Another thing I found very interesting was the way that the men in this film took on the roles typically assigned to women: the personality-devoid yet attractive lovers (I can't recall any specific details about Tracy and her mother's boyfriends, even as both of these women vividly live on in my mind) and the moral compasses (Tracy's brother). These character types really aren't negative in and of themselves, the problem is how often they're assigned to women and women only; seeing them gender flipped was a nice change of pace.
And so, the result of the men being 1-note supporting characters is that a lot of screentime is spent on Tracy's relationships with other women, specifically her mom and Evie. This is one of the big reasons I was so exited to sign on for this challenge, I really crave female interaction in the films I watch and this one delivered in a big way. While definitely a very visceral, difficult film to watch, this is a fantastic example of how women bring a unique perspective to the movies they make, and I'm thrilled I chose it to start off my challenge.

Bend It Like Beckham (2002)
Directed by Gurinder Chadha
I remember as a kid, when there used to be such things as Blockbusters, I used to see this movie on the shelf a lot. I never got around to seeing it, and I'm sorry because I know I would have loved it-I was crazy for that Mary-Kate and Ashley soccer movie and this would have complimented it wonderfully. As it is, it's a cute movie, but not something that really appeals to me now-a good example being I thought Joe was so boring and spent most of this hoping Jules and Jess would actually get together. Oh well.
That isn't to say there wasn't stuff to like here though, because there really is. It was great to see a mainstream teen movie that focused on something other than the typical white American/British perspective-I loved getting to know Jess' family, and could really sympathize with their attempts to do right by their daughter, even if it took them awhile to come around (an aspect I actually wouldn't have appreciated if I'd seen it as a kid). I also enjoyed that rather than Jess getting away with her deception the whole movie, like is typical in these types of storylines, her parents find her out several times. I thought this was a great choice-it adds more humor, and also raises the stakes each time, so by the time her sister's wedding rolls around you know she's not going to ditch without permission and it's so much more thrilling when she receives it.
So that's Bend It Like Beckham. An enjoyable little teen flick with some great deviations from the norm, but if these kinds of films aren't normally your thing, it's not something demanding to be watched.

Goodnight Mommy (2015)
Co-directed by Veronika Franz
 Just have to include an obligatory "look at that poster". Because wow, is that cool looking. Unfortunately, I did not like this movie quite as much as I like the poster. One problem was that this involves a mysterious woman whose face is covered in bandages-I found myself reminded of The Skin I Live In multiple times, and this just couldn't live up to how much I love that film. The other problem is I was well aware of this film's reputation as being super disturbing and torture porn-y. I actually don't mind that it was a lot mellower than I expected, but it still threw me for a loop when the majority of the runtime was so slow-paced and innocuous.
The one big thing I can say for this film is that the choice of actors for the twin boys is perfect. Wow. Most children annoy me and the presence of bad child acting has tainted many a film for me, but these boys were wonderful. They were so riveting that even as they were doing the most horrific things, I felt very invested in them. Also, I was too tired to recognize the foreshadowing of the twist, so I was able to fully appreciate its reveal. I felt the film ended a little too abruptly after that revelation, but that's not a huge complaint. 
Overall, while I didn't love this one, it's a very well-crafted, atmospheric horror film with some fantastic child actors, and one I'd definitely recommend. 

Daisies (1966)
Directed by Věra Chytilová
Oh wow, this was so good! Definitely my favorite of this batch. I finally saw Valerie and Her Week of Wonders a few days before this one, a film I'd really been looking forward to seeing. It did not disappoint, and I decided I should take a closer look into the Czech New Wave-Daisies is a film that is both part of that movement, and a film I had planned for this project. I decided to kill two birds with one stone, and wow am I glad I did! My biggest impression is that this is easily one of the most visually stunning movies I've ever seen. The aesthetic of it is just perfect, so modern and yet it could only have come from the 60s. 
This one fits the challenge even better because of its reputation as being very feminist. And that it is-but in a refreshing way. I don't think the director sat down and decided to make a feminist picture, rather, her political beliefs and art were so intrinsically linked that this could never have been anything else. A wonderful change from later "feminist" films thought up by people who just wanted to cash in, rather than because it's something they actually believed in or understood.
Anyway, all I can really say is that I highly recommend that you check out this film as soon as possible, it's absolutely worth your time!

Wayne's World (1992)
Directed by Penelope Spheeris
I had very mixed feelings on this one. On the one hand, it has a nice vibe to it; it's very good-natured and has a slow pace that effectively envelopes you in the pleasant, "chill" world of these characters. However, there was just something off about it that I can't quite put my finger on-I could never fully relax and enjoy the movie because I felt this mild discomfort about what I was seeing that never went away. Maybe this is a film where you had to "be there" to really get it, I don't know, but it's definitely not my thing.
However, I don't regret watching it, because I did have a fairly good time with it, and more than that, I think this is a genuinely important film. Because this is exactly the kind of movie people don't believe women can make-they look at Sofia Coppola and the female directors inspired by her style and say, hey, clearly male and female filmmakers are intrinsically different and that's why women are less successful. But Wayne's World is a fantastic example of how, well, that's just not true. Penelope Spheeris made a nerdy comedy aimed at young men, and did that so flawlessly that even recently I've seen several people who were very shocked to discover a woman directed Wayne's World. Questions of quality aside, this is a mainstream film that challenges peoples perceptions of female filmmakers, and I think that's very valuable and worth remembering this movie for.

So, that was January! Daisies was definitely the highlight of this month, but all of these films were enjoyable and interesting in their own ways, and I'm very exited to see where this challenge takes me in the coming year.


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