The Blah Ring

Not been to the cinema very much recently. Feels silly to spend a few hours in a dark room when the days are long and warm, doesn’t it?

I did see The Bling Ring this week though. A tremendously strong passer of the test as the film features a mostly female cast.

What this film also proves is that even a strong passer of the test can be not especially feminist.

It might be my personal politics but I found the entire conceit impossible to give the tiniest of shits about. Rich people steal from richer people in the pursuit of massive materialist consumerism. YAWN.

And despite the fact that this story is based on real events, the women characters seemed strangely two-dimensional and unrealistic. The only character you might feel some sort of sympathy for was the male one, who came across like an actual real person.

I like Sofia Coppola‘s style, and she’s very good at making films that have women in them but I think she’s fixated on rich women (and men – let’s not forget the snoozefest that was Somewhere) in particular. In this case, the film was really quite boring for me. Her movies all seem to be about the loneliness of being really rich. Excuse me if I’m not affluent enough to do one over this. Ennui is a privilege. And a boring one to watch.

The soundtrack is really good though.

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Compliance & Cloud Atlas

I have been slack recently. I think going to the cinema once a week was too ambitious, let alone going once a week to see a Bechdel-passing film.

That said, I went twice this week. On Wednesday I saw Compliance which was easily the most horrible & uncomfortable film I have ever sat through. It is a really well made film but I never want to see it again. It passes the test on many, many occasions because the two lead characters are female.  It’s based on a true story & the film claims that nothing is exaggerated. I think it’s an incredible film but it left me feeling sick for hours.

The other film I saw this week was Cloud Atlas. It’s based on the book by David Mitchell & I think if you haven’t read the book, the film might be impenetrable. It only just passes due to  conversations between two of the fabricants (Somni & Yoona) working in Papa Song’s. A lot of the cleverness & wit of the book is lost in the mawkishness of the film – a massive difference is that the book’s main theme is “predacity” & the film’s main linking theme is “love” (ergh).

The interesting thing the film explores is identity – mostly through the same actors playing different roles. They play different genders & ethnicities (this has sparked a bit of controversy). I enjoyed it but I did find myself wanting a few more women actors (of 13 main cast, 4 were women) to see them being allowed to explore changing identity as much as the male actors. The exploration of identity certainly fits with something the directors might want to examine. Director Lana Wachowski made her first public appearance as a fully transitioned woman in a trailer for the movie.

For all the explorations, 7 of the 13 main cast members are caucasian men, so the film still has a very White Man basis from which it explores.

These are just some thought farts of mine. Both of these films have got me thinking which is probably a good thing.

Ah! Lore!

I remedied my missed weeks by going to see Lore today.

I wouldn’t have considered it previously as I’d not heard of it at all. I haven’t seen any trailers or posters for it. I was hoping to see Zero Dark Thirty but my local Picturehouse wasn’t showing it & I was beginning to feel like I wasn’t putting in enough effort with this challenge.

So, I saw Lore was on, read the blurb, watched the trailer & it looked like a good contender for a Bechdel-passing film. It wasn’t listed on bechdeltest.com though so I tried googling to see if anyone had blogged about whether it passes and accidentally learned that the film is directed & co-written by a woman. Surely, thought I, this film must pass the test. I asked Twitter and a helpful follower told me it did. Of course I couldn’t be totally confident after the Bullhead palava but seeing as there were lots of women in the trailer, a woman writer, a woman protagonist (which the film is named after) and a woman director – I felt pretty certain this film wouldn’t let me down.

It didn’t. It passes the test over & over again. Along with Beasts of the Southern Wild, this is my favourite film of 2013 so far. It really satisfied my (now increasing with this project) demand for stories about women, told by women. Having a woman protagonist (technically, a teenager here) is a real pleasure for me to watch. I especially like seeing relationships between mothers & daughters explored & the idea of women being in charge of difficult situations. 

I found the film to be beautiful, detailed & fraught. I don’t know if my enjoyment of it was boosted because of it being exactly what I want from this experiment or whether I enjoyed it so much because I started this experiment to find movies exactly like this.

I probably would not have seen this film at the cinema were I not doing this project so I’m really pleased as I feel like I’m beginning to get what I was hoping for from it. It’s now March, by January 2014 I hope I have a sizeable list of films like this.

Bull

This week I was duped! Oh, the drama.

I asked on Twitter if anyone who had seen Bullhead knew if it passed the Bechdel test. From the trailer it didn’t look likely but someone, who it turns out was the script consultant for the film, told me it did.

Well, it doesn’t. I paid my £4 to see it at the Prince Charles Cinema and I sat through the whole film waiting for it to pass and feeling a mixture of disappointment & annoyance.

I was annoyed because I’d been misinformed but also because this whole experience was playing on my mind and I became annoyed at the very fact that I’m doing this experiment because of the lack of representation of women in films and that I couldn’t just sit back and enjoy a film because, once again, I was watching a bunch of men telling me men’s stories.

Even looking back at all the films I’ve watched this year at the cinema, NONE of them have focussed exclusively on women’s stories. Bullhead focusses on men’s stories only. The women are incidental devices. But in none of the Bechdel-passing-films I’ve seen so far have there been any where men have only been used as devices to tell women’s stories. So even with this experiment, I am not seeing fewer men’s stories.

I’m only 6 films in, so maybe this will even up over time but I’m not hugely optimistic.

The guy who tweeted me did offer to refund me, so at least my annoyance was acknowledged. I turned down the offer though, because isn’t accepting money off a stranger on Twitter really weird?

Quartet & Age

This week I saw Quartet. This is definitely not a film I would’ve paid to see at the cinema if I wasn’t doing this experiment. This was the 1st week of the year where I felt really restricted  in my film choices. The options were Quartet or Les Miserables. To be honest, I thought I might not make it to the cinema at all this week. Both those films I wouldn’t mind seeing but am not particularly drawn to. Additionally, I didn’t think I could convince my boyfriend to come see either of those films and split my Wednesday 2for1 deal with me. As it turned out, I had some miserable news and I think he felt sorry for me so agreed to come. Possibly also because we watched The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel on TV last week and quite enjoyed it.

What Quartet (and TBEMH) made me think about was the representation of older women in movies. We know Hollywood loves young women, preferably with their kit off, but I wonder how the breakdown of women in film would be when looking at age. I’m inclined to think that most lead female roles would favour women within a 20-40 age range. That’s a total guess. I would also guess that male leads would be dominated by that age group but I can immediately think of many lead male roles for older men and not as many for older women.  We know women make up only around a third of all speaking parts so there are fewer roles overall, but I wonder if the ratio of younger women to older women is more pronounced than younger to older men.

If that is the case, it’s an unhappy one for women as we see that, as under represented as we are in films already, we get less representation as we get older. I wonder if there is data on this somewhere.

I might be totally wrong about this.

As an aside, Pauline Collins is really brilliant in Quartet and the film is an extremely strong passer of the Bechdel test.

Any Club That Would Have Me As A Member

In an average year I pay to go to the cinema 20-30 times. If I manage to go every week as I plan to with this experiment, I’ll be going twice as much as I normally would. In order to afford this I’ve been looking at cheap cinema options.

I’m a member of my local cinema which is a Picturehouse. If I go on a Wednesday before 5.30pm, I can get 2for1 tickets with an Orange voucher. This means £2.75 a ticket. The difficulty is finding someone to go with me. It also means if I’m busy on a Wednesday then I miss that. I also found out that my Picturehouse membership gives me 90 days free use of Mubi. It’s puts up a new film every day that remains available to stream for a month. It’s like having a personal indie cinema curated by a cool film buff.

I also discovered that joining the Prince Charles Cinema is only £10/year and can get you £4 weekday tickets. They show a lot of films on late release which is why it’s so much cheaper than many other cinemas. This works out well for me as I can catch films I might’ve missed. It’s also convenient as it’s right in the centre of town (just off Leicester Square).

Today I went there and I saw Safety Not Guaranteed at 4pm. It was screened downstairs in what is a huge, beautiful, old music hall style cinema. I think there were fewer than 10 people in. I felt like a millionaire. I went and bought a drink & a snack from a Chinese supermarket in nearby Chinatown. I took myself on a great date.

As for the film, it just about passes the test. I was quite surprised that it only passes on one short exchange considering the lead role in this film is a woman.

I feel now I’ve started this experiment demanding more women in my movies, that a film that only just passes isn’t good enough. I want films with 50% women! Or half of the films I see to have 100% women!

I know that’s a bit silly, but I definitely do feel that my awareness of the absence of women in many films does distract me from enjoying it. Before I started this experiment I would go to every film I saw and consciously note if and when it passed the test. For example, Dredd passes within the first few minutes & I felt myself celebrate internally, then relax and enjoy it – if you’ve not seen it, I recommend doing so. It was one of my favourite films of 2012.

It’s very hard to un-notice the lack of women once you’ve become aware of it. So, sorry if I’ve done that for any of you following this blog, I guess. You can join me, though. Especially on Wednesdays afternoons when I need a 2for1 partner.