In my last year of uni I realized I still had to take an elective for my major. On a whim, I took Women in Film, as it looked like the most interesting choice. It was a very informative class and we analyzed a variety of films from the silent era to modern day directed by women. The professor had a list of movies she would assign us every week to write about. They spanned all time periods and mediums.
Persepolis (2007): Based on the 2003 autobiographical comic by Marjane Satrapi, it tells the story of her childhood in Iran during the 1970’s and her teenage years in France. The use of black and white show how stark her adolescence was, simplifying elements to their most basic form. The use of color for current day scenes and traditional Arabic motifs for flashbacks are beautiful visual cues. I was a fan of the comics when I was younger and the movie was as good as I remembered it.
Valley Girl (1983): Based off of Romeo and Juliet this movie embodies everything about cliched 80’s teen flicks in a bad way. Shallow girls, pushy guys, constant talk of sex, random topless scenes, can’t say I was a fan. The romance between wealthy Julie and rough Randy was forced and their break up scene was very uncomfortable. (seeing him yell “f- you” as she says nothing and cry is disturbing) The only decent part of the movie was the fashions and big hair. The pastel colors and wild makeup are a nice departure from today’s dark colors and minimalist looks.
Cleo de 17h a 19h (1962): Singer Cleo is used to being adored by everyone and being the center of attention. After a tarot card reading hints that she might have a deadly illness she starts to reevaluate her life. A very stream of conscious film that borders on dreamy at times. The way she goes about her daily activities from buying a hat to singing in her apartment look like scenes from a daydream than real life. This is amplified by her melodramatic nature and the people around her indulging her whims. Shot in Paris we get a glimpse of the city how it was in the early 60’s, some of it unchanged today. The only thing that I didn’t like was that the translations weren’t 100% accurate and some parts were not translated at all. A very enjoyable film that is an acquired taste.
Born in Flames (1983): Shot in on 16mm film and resembling a documentary it follows an underground feminist movement in an alternate New York City. The movie explored feminism, classism, racism, and heteronormativity. It was disturbing to see the things they spoke about in the 70’s still ring true today. I have a hard time articulating about this film aside from it was an interesting and wild ride.
I am very glad I took this course. I found out many movies I thought were directed by men were by women and that we’ve been involved in film since it’s invention.
Filed under movies, review
It fills me with sadness to say it’s Halloween weekend and my spooky movie viewing has been minimal, aside from American Horror Story. Usually, I look to Tim Burton’s dark lush movies, which are synonymous with Halloween. However it’s been over a year since he dropped the bombshell basically stating that he thinks the inclusion of poc in his movies is pandering. Being told by someone you genuinely enjoy that your existence is pc culture is upsetting at best. It also means I’m not supporting or watching his films anymore. I’m not a fan of gory horror films and prefer the moody goth aesthetic which leaves me with few options. Enter the Silenced and the House at the end of Time.
The Silenced, set in 1930’s South Korea, follows Ju-ran (rename Shizuko) as she is sent to an isolated sanitorium. While she receives her treatments for sickness she notices changes in herself and her fellow classmates gradually disappearing. There are scenes of blood and mild gore but they are brief and never gratuitous. These 13-16-year-old girls are never sexualized or framed by the male gaze, not even in the sole dressing scene where they’re all in modest bloomers and chemises. I don’t know much about this era of Korean history so it was an interesting and insightful look.
The second film I watched was the Venezuelan The House at the end of Time. After a woman is released from jail for murdering her husband and son the truth about that night starts to come to light. The movie switches between present day and the 80’s, slowly building up to the aforementioned night. It drags at some points but the plot is fantastic and the ending is well done. Usually, I don’t stick around for films that drag on but this one is worth it for the ending alone.
I highly recommend both if you prefer buildup, atmosphere, and great cinematography to standard shock gore. Both are currently streaming on Netlifx.
Filed under movies, review
When we think of a show about a Victorian-era ax murderess several channels come to mind, such as A&E or FX. Surprisingly, I am talking about the 2015 Lifetime limited-series, the Lizzie Borden Chronicles. A continuation of a 2014 movie and set a year later in 1893 it follows the titular Lizzie Borden after she was acquitted of the murder or her father and stepmother. I was interested to see how a violent story would be adapted for a channel known for its romance and feel good shows. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite reach it’s potential.
While the outfits are not exact replicas of French fashion plates they are accurate and capture the essence of early 1890’s fashion.The s-shape silhouette, black mourning walking dresses, shirtwaists, and hatpins are all present. I liked how clothes were used to visually characterize Lizzie and her sister Emma. Lizzie is a fashionable woman with a taste for fine things while older Emma is frugal and reserved. This is represented visually with their clothes.
L-R: Emma and Lizzie
L-R: Emma and Lizzie
For example, Emma’s shirtwaist is plain with minimal pintucks down the middle. Contrasted with Lizzie who has lace detailing at the yoke and down the middle. Another example is their outing outfits. Lizzie’s is brightly patterned with lace and other details while Emma’s is navy and utilitarian. Even their umbrellas reflect this. The only discrepancy is the limp hairstyles and leg-of-mutton sleeves. These missing finer details could be because it’s on cable tv and not being backed by a channel like HBO.
Needless to say, it was a chore to get through the first episode. Perhaps it was the constant shakey cam that made it difficult to focus on anything (including text close-ups), or the constant angle changes in a single scene, or the inappropriate music choices including a song that mentioned Greyhound buses (shout out for being one of the most inappropriate song choices I’ve endured). These things distracted me far too much to engage me or form any solid opinions on the plot or acting. As much as I enjoy empowered period heroines I’m going to have to sit this one out.
The last time I updated was in August? Yikes! :O My New Year’s resolution is to post no less than once a month. I have some ideas on posts about representation, but I’m lacking materials to review. Every year I set a goal to read a certain amount of books by the end of each year. I am displeased to say that I was unable to meet this goal for this year. Mainly, the books I were finding were not doing the job.
Kingdom of Little Wounds: Set in 1500’s Scandinavia, it is about a royal seamstress and a maid as they try to figure out the disease that is killing everyone. According to the author, it’s a fairy tale about syphilis. This is a YA novel, mind you. The book is not sanitized and goes into the sometimes graphic depictions of daily life, including disease and sexual assault. No lush banquets or flowing gowns or star-crossed romance here.
It was an ok (and somewhat unsettling) read until I got to the introduction of an African maid named Midi Norte. For some inexplicable reason, despite everyone around her speaking normally she sounded like a mammy stereotype. Compared to The Miniaturist, which is set in the same region in the same period and also features an African servant, this book feels like it did not even bother trying. While Midi sounds like a character from a minstrel show (a 19th century invention) the servant in the Miniaturist is every bit as eloquent and well spoken as everyone else. After reading her intro chapter I returned the book. After reading reviews which talk about the graphic and unsettling scenes (including our two teen main characters getting sexually assaulted by adults) (repeatedly) I feel like I dodged a bullet.
Captive Prince #2: I know, I know, you’re probably wondering why I bothered in the first place when I gave the first book a lukewarm review. The first book was a quick read and I figured this would be the same. I only got halfway through before I stopped. The whole nature surrounding same sex couplings reeked of being juvenile. Maybe the whole taboo nature and crass language regarding sex appeals to some but it was groan-worthy at best. What is suppose to be titillating only left a bad taste in my mouth.
Daughter of the Blood: I was excited to read this, seeing many prominent novelists sing its praises. After one chapter I had to stop. Adulterous women, lecherous men assaulting servants, the “chosen one” being a pale blonde blue-eyed girl, they even named one of the few dark skinned characters “Saten de Diablo”. Really?? This book might have been groundbreaking in the late 90’s but nowadays it comes off as stale and terribly cliched.
Needless to say it’s easy to see where I lost motivation to find new books to read. It’s a new year and I’ve started myself off with Dorian Grey. I’m optimistic that I’ll find books that aren’t quite aggravating. My only requirement at this point is that if there are any poc that they’re not walking stereotypes or villains/barbaric/etc.
Filed under books, review
Alas, I keep forgetting to write up those reviews. Here are my thoughts on some historical related media I’ve been meaning to talk about.
American Horror Story, season 4: After much pestering from several people I finally caved and watched this season. I came in not knowing what to expect and was pleasantly surprised. I wasn’t expecting it to be set in the 40’s, nor was I expecting the accuracy that I saw. I’m used to the half-hearted attempts at grasping at period aesthetics, with gowns that vaguely look Victorian or weak jazz to indicate the 20’s. Not so here, the research put into this show is top notch. Everything was spot on from the flashbacks to attitudes and even the circus performers themselves. Since viewing this I’ve started the third season and will work my way through the other seasons, so expect more on those at a later time. Expect me this fall, FX. 4/5
Game of Thrones, season 5: aka everyone’s Problematic Fave. I am so fed up with this show and yet here I am, waiting for the next season. At this point, I just want to see my girls find happiness. They’re treated so poorly and it’s very upsetting. Before anyone busts out the “b-but that’s how it was back then!!1!” excuse, this is fantasy. You can make your own rules and have these girls not be used as plot devices. If what I heard from book fans is true, a lot of these changes and omissions weren’t necessary. Representation was pitiful as always. In FIVE seasons the only Asian person seen was a former prostitute and seen for all of a couple minutes in one episode. Yikes. Not even going to talk about the black slavers, this show irritates me enough. Just give my girls a good ending and call it a day. 2/5
Penny Dreadful, season 1: A very fun and entertaining show, although culturally inaccurate at parts. Considering the amount of detail that goes into every scene and character (ex. Dr. Frankenstein’s creature being true to the book and not the movies) I feel this is intentional. I heard this anachronistic mix as done on purpose but I haven’t been able to verify since I don’t want to spoil the second season. 3.5/5
HTTYD Race to the Edge: Its set in the Viking era, it counts. Aside from a couple Norse gods being mentioned and some Celtic knots, there is virtually no accuracy here. You don’t watch this show for political warfare and accurate depictions of daily life, you watch for the dragons and action scenes. 😛 In all an entertaining season, although it would be nice to see some the girls interact with each other more. (rolling eyes at each other doesn’t count!) 3.5/5
I need to find another new historical show to enjoy during the summer. I’m watching lots of sci-fi but I need something a little lighter and possibly whimsical.