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Annakarinaland
Anna Karina in Pierre le Fou

2022-10-03

Blonde's sacrifice to Valhalla

 Blonde (2022) converts the  'Marilyn prose' of the novel by Joyce Carol Oates (2000) into imagery in a relentless travesty devoid of integrity and ridden with clichés. Oates calls it a "penetration" of the fictitious self of Marilyn Monroe and was used by Andrew Dominik as a "bible" for his film. 


Many Netflix spectators describe that they reached a saturation point after 20 minutes. Oates' first chapter is mirrored in these opening scenes:  the leitmotif of closeups of Monroe in her white briefs forced into unsolicited sex in casting auditions or twirling on the set of The Seven Year Itch; growing up as an infant in a bureau drawer with a mentally unstable mother Gladys (Julianne Nicholson); receiving  a birthday present, a photograph of her absent father placed over her bed by her mother; the fire set that results in the child being placed in an orphanage.

The language of Blonde is torpid and  dramatic: "I will punish myself, despite your love" is one of the fantasmagorical constructions of the novel that finds its way into the film.  Oates describes Marilyn as a "defeated" child, "sacrificed" to an institution as ward of Los Angeles County. Her "Oakie name" Norma Jeane adapted from "movie people" - Norma Talmadge and Jean Harlow is changed to Marilyn by a studio executive and she takes her mother's maiden name Monroe. Her hair is bleached and her teeth straightened. She is a woman, according to Oates, "burdened by her body"; her natural beauty commodified by the studios.  She is not shown reading for serious roles in Ibsen or Chekhov. Blonde cherry picks the roles which gave her less money, less versatility and dwarf her real acting register.

 Ana De Armas, Blonde (2022).
©La Biennale di Venezia

Oates communicates that the psyche of the novel is about a "creature desperate to survive". She calls her 'a goddess visiting in disguise' for screen tests, films and public appearances but otherwise is just 'plain Marilyn'.  In Dominik's Blonde ritual enactments of 'goddess murder' are shown through objectification and sexual abuse.  Oates said that Monroe was aware of her predators like the Kennedy's but claims she  took the stance: "I won't interfere with the world that is trying to exploit me but see how far it will take me".  Yet, Blonde shows Monroe's complicity and rebellion against her subjugation in scenes where she is screaming,  reeling from pills and alcohol, dissasociating from trauma and speaking in her inner voice in a daunting and tragic downward spiral. It is one punch after another from the burning house to the orphanage to abusive marriages, to the White House.  

Oates regards the film as "feminist" and extraordinary for being made by a man. The film is neither feminist nor is the novel. The reactions from the general public are overwhelmingly negative since its debut at Venice in September.  It did not win any awards. Almost every scene of Blonde is embedded with misogyny towards Monroe, her mother, or any woman with a role in the film. Blonde is a  relentless dismissive portrait of a mythologized woman crammed with as many legends as possible from the annals of Monroe worship. 

Blonde populates Marilyn Monroe's world with predators in a cycle of abuse. Ana De Armas as Monroe infantalizes and subjugates her character in homage to a caricature that is a copy of a copy  incarnate from hell. She consistently uses a baby doll voice and is unable to register anything other than being a victim, seemingly unaware of the largesse of her character. The acclaim accorded to Monroe in her life is never shown, nor the respect of her peers. Her personal accountability for her career with media savvy smarts and entrepreneurship  that made her successful is non-existent.  The film seems to push her as far into her crypt as possible in Valhalla as a fait accompli. De Armas revealed that she visited Monroe’s grave in Los Angeles to ask for her permission to play her (after Jessica Chastain and Naomi Watts had already turned it down). It seems like director and actress knew nothing about her career and relied on a 20 year old novel to tell the story.

Joyce Carol Oates response to the overwhelming negative reaction to the NC-17 rated Blonde is don't watch it (albeit read her novel).  For those who are tired of the character assassination of Monroe it is good advice.  Oates and others attribute the negative reaction to the "artistic" way the film is made since it deviates from  Netflix' s standard entertainment. This assumption is an affront to the eclectic and sophisticated tastes of viewers.  Blonde mixes black and white with color cinematography, shows a superimposition of Marilyn having sex atop a gushing Niagara Falls,  dialogue with fetuses,  and POV shots of OB/GYN procedures. This is not why the film is controversial. Blonde's  framing of an ostentatious fantasy of Monroe drugged, dragged  and presented to Jack Kennedy’s room for sexual services while he watches sci-fi on a TV console is an egregious and pretentious turnoff  in league with Vincent Gallo's Brown Bunny.  "Death" arrives with a package to the actor's home in Brentwood two days before her death, a stuffed animal dressed up like a  "Rosebud". Montage and elliptical editing suggest Monroe dies allegedly from the horror of the experience.

After being subjugated, dissected and and colonized  by the camera and editing in the film's myopic and intrinsic misogyny nearly three hours have gone by. Monroe's body is central in the framing of the film, passive, erotic, and dismembered for the male gaze,  adhering to the embryonic blueprint of women in film. 

Netflix waited a year to release September 23 hoping for the NC-17 stamp to rub off,  hoping that a standing ovation at Venice in September would redeem it (all films with the director and stars present at Venice get standing ovations).  The film shows an actor without a single ally to support her.  She is surrounded by a sea of exploiters much like the exaggerated and massive extras on the set of The Seven Year Itch in Blonde.  

Andrew Dominik's films are seldom about women and he admits he knows little about them and would like to even be one to understand, so why make a film about one of the most complex, least understood women in film history? 

Fortuitously the gates of Valhalla today are laden with the lipstick kisses of women who esteem Marilyn Monroe - her being -  intelligence,  humor, entrepreneurship, artistry, and humanity, whose ambitions as a serious and gifted actor were often thwarted but who always conveyed a presence fueled by a powerful inner light.
 

Brad Pitt producer, Ana De Amas, Andrew Dominik and Adrien Brody at premiere of "Blonde"
Venice September 8, 2022. ©La Biennale di Venezia

© 2022 - Moira Jean Sullivan -  09/30/22
Movie Magazine International

2022-05-29

Maria Schneider, 1983

 

by Moira Jean Sullivan

The Festival de Cannes Directors fortnight premiere of Maria Schneider, 1983 (16mm) by Elisabeth Subrin will be held May 26 featuring Manal Issa, Aïssa Maïga, and Isabel Sandoval. Together with other filmmakers, Subrin said she was asked to work on an experimental adaptation  for Antonioni's film Technically Sweet  from the 1980's to be shot on video - Sweet Ruin (2008).
Antonioni's film was never made when Jack Nicholson refused to shoot on location in the Amazon. He  instead made 
The Passenger (1983) with Maria Schneider and Nicholson. 
It wasn't until 2014 that Subrin started a blog dedicated to Maria Schneider called Who Cares About Actresses. This was prompted by a media interest in Schneider's negative experience on the set of Last Tango in Paris directed by  Bernardo Bertolucci. The #METOO movement got behind Schneider's story that she was sexually abused by Bertolutcci and the story was brought to international attention along with similar experiences of other women in the film business.

 Maria Schneider was open about her exploitation a long time ago. The truth was well known to the women who knew her and the organizers of Créteil International Women's Film Festival. Schneider was the guest of honor in Créteil 2001 and Movie Magazine International ran an exclusive interview with her in April 2001.

In Subrin's film three actresses repeat word for word a section of an interview made for Cinémas Cinéma with Anne Andreu and Raoul Sangla in 1983. It is also credited to Maria Schneider. It is the same part of the interview interpreted by Manal Issa, Aissa Maiga and Isabel Sandoval (who speaks English). The section is about how being an actress is dangerous, and how she was exploited by Bertolucci and Brando in Last Tango in Paris and that it was a rape on screen. This is a part of a larger film according to the filmmaker.

Maria is not in the film, only her voice in the end credits.

© 2022 - Moira Jean Sullivan: 05/18/22
Movie Magazine International

Zar Amir Ebrahimi, best acting award for Holy Spider

Powerful statement by Zar Amir Ebrahimi, best acting award for Holy Spider who was forced into exile in 2006 by a smear campaign for a film she was in. She said she had been "saved by cinema". "This film is about women, it's about their bodies, it's a movie full of faces, hair, hands, feet, breasts, sex -- everything that is impossible to show in Iran". The film is inspired by the true story of a working class man who killed prostitutes in the early 2000s and became known as the "Spider Killer". "Holy Spider" suggests there was little official pressure to catch the murderer, who ends up a hero among the religious right. "The movie is not only about a serial killer ... it's about a serial killer society..."Any serious movie that manages to get made in the Islamic Republic "is a miracle". (Ali Abbasi director).

A donkey's life at Cannes: Anne Wiazemsky and Au Hasard Balthazar.

 Eo by Polish director Jerzy Skolimowski

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2021-07-20

Titane: a Film Criticism

The fact that there were four women on the feature film jury at Cannes this year means a lot. Even if 20 of the 24 of the films were made by men in the competition for the 74th Cannes Film Festival, how women see film and make film is different than men. The world of film critics is full of men and how they write is also different. It is not a judgement - just a fact.

I was deeply disturbed by Titane at the screening. Filmmaker Julia Ducournau is as "raw", as the title of her previous film (Raw, 2016). The cadence of this film is similar starring Garance Marillier as a vegetarian veterinarian with a minor role in the film. Ducournau has a cinematic sense that I have not encountered previously This needs some qualification. Ducournau shows how women feel. She shows their bodies in intimate detail and their facial expressions. They are doers. She shows their vulnerability and their stengths even as they are assaulted and bullied. She provides characters in which spectators can focus their "Look", not the camera but the characters who gaze on women in a sexual way, for 'the look' is the gaze of the camera, the gaze of the characters on each other and the gaze of the spectator. Because it is made by a woman she knows how to visualize female characters, not through surface reality, window dressing or mirrors of the male gaze but how they feel inside. The scenes are visceral and cathartic. Her previous films Junior and Raw show physical metamorphoses and transformations acquired through ingestion, digestion and sexuality.

Titane , like Raw begins with a crash crash. A narcissistic uncaring father (Bertrand Bonello) screams at his seven year old daughter Alexia (Adèle Guigue) in the back seat to be quiet and seconds later the car hits a barricade which sends her, not him, to the emergency room. As she sits up in bed, her head is covered with a metal vise that is clamped to keep her head erect. When she leaves the hospital after rehabilitation we see the close up on a scar that looks like brain tissue. She has received an metal implant to suture the wound. It remains and hair cannot cover it.

The opening scenes shows sex workers feeding the fantasy of men by performing erotic dances on top of revved up sedans in a car show . The men desire them but after the exhibitions, Alexia turns it off. One pursuer asks for an autograph, then a kiss, and in response, she plummets him in the head with a long black metal speke. Leaning over the window he exudes white foam from his mouth. Later that night there is a loud pounding at her door and she opens it, It leads to a garage, where revved up sedan is waiting for her , entraps her with seatbelts and has sex with her. She becomes pregnant but after an examination, her father, a physician, claims she is not.

In the dressing room Alexia is drawn to Justine (Garance Marillier) and follows her home where she lives in a collective of sex workers. After a failed sexual encounter she proceeds to attack Justine her weaponized hair pin and attacks her housemate except an MTF. Next up in her warpath is her father who goes up in flames. Alexia's mug shot is described to the police and is on the news that is scene in public monitors. To cover her tracks, she shaves her heads and binds her chest in a service stop lavoratory. Alexia becomes Adrien. The names are used for the main characters in Raw.

Central to both films are rituals involving contests of feats. In Raw it is for the induction of new students into vet school. In Titane it is for the ordeals of firemen. Titane is flame resistant film art.

© 2021 - Moira Jean Sullivan - 07/21/21
CinéFemme - Annakarinaland

2021-07-19

74th Cannes Film Festival: Top prizes awarded to women

Awards night at the 74th Cannes Film Festival was special with so many of the top prizes going to women. Women constituted the majority of the feature film competition jury- five out of nine - for the first time in the festival's history.

Feature Films
PALME D'OR
TITANE
Julia DUCOURNAU

HONORARY PALME D'OR
JODIE FOSTER

CAMÉRA D'OR
DIRECTORS'FORTNIGHT
MURINA
Antoneta ALAMAT KUSIJANOVIC

Un Certain Regard
The five-member Un Certain Regard Jury had three women
(six of the nine prizes awarded to women.
UN CERTAIN REGARD PRIZE
RAZZHIMAYA KULAKI (UNCLENCHING THE FISTS)
Kira KOVALENKO

ENSEMBLE PRIZE
BONNE MÈRE(GOOD MOTHER)
Hafsia HERZI

COURAGE PRIZE
LA CIVIL
Teodora Ana MIHAI

SPECIAL MENTION - UN CERTAIN REGARD
NOCHE DE FUEGO (PRAYERS FOR THE STOLEN) Tatiana HUEZO

Two other festival juries - one for the Camera d'or award, the other for Cinefondation and Short Films - were also headed by women.
3RD PRIZE CINÉFONDATION (EX-AEQUO)
PRIN ORAS CIRCULA SCURTE POVESTI DE DRAGOSTE (LOVE STORIES ON THE MOVE)
Carina-Gabriela DASOVEANU

Palme d'or Short Films
Hong Kong Tang Yi (New York University student).
ALL THE CROWS IN THE WORLD (HONG KONG).

2020-03-10

The Power of No and #MeToo within the film industry: Harvey Weinstein convicted of sexual assault and rape

Reprinted from agnesfilms.com
March 9, 2020

  • Hollywood producers, directors, cast, and crew who are sexual predators and abusers are part of the history of the motion picture industry. Harvey Weinstein attempted to negate the power of solidarity among women who declared they had been abused by claiming it was consensual or that he did not recall the events survivors were describing. The film industry is not unique as a site for sexual assault or provocation, but because of the widespread number of women who spoke out, this case has become globally applicable to a multitude of work environments where women have stood up and declared #MeToo. #MeToo is synonymous with Harvey Weinstein and his rampage of sexual assault of women in Hollywood in the film industry, but #MeToo has grown from this case to expose predators in other places of employment. 

Adele Haenel
For over a century, we have seen sexual violence in films and television but recently have learned about an overwhelming preponderance behind the scenes by producer Harvey Weinstein, who has made several Oscar-winning films. If history is written by the conquerors, the women — like Talara Wulff, Dawn Dunning and Annabella Sciorra, who have come forward to testify against him — are re-writing it. Calling it a “movement” after centuries of abuse is a misnomer — it is an action. Sexual assault is a historical practice, and breaking the silence of its existence threatens predators who have historically lived above the law without recrimination. Without action from #MeToo they will continue to do so. Sexual assault cases are hard to prove. Testimonies are meticulously dissected on cases that because of shame and fear keep women silent, where the evidence is often ephemeral. However, safety is in numbers and #MeToo has the earmarks of  a “class action suit.” Catherine MacKinnon’s 1979 study Sexual Harassment of Working Women: A case of sex discrimination was the groundwork to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act: Sexual Harassment of Working Women, work discrimination based on gender, and #MeToo is leveling the ground.
The women who gave testimony at the Weinstein trial reveal how their humiliation and assault ruined and diminished their careers. His rampage as a Hollywood mogul ended when they and countless other women broke their silence. Significantly, these truthsayers defy the unspoken or whispered belief that women will do anything to advance their careers in the entertainment industry and keep silent about it.
Jettisoning to trial on his rollator walker, Harvey engaged powerhouse defense attorney Donna Rotunno to argue his plea of not guilty. The use of a woman to discredit other women was a strategy. The transformation of a powerful independent mogul into a broken-down wronged man had a purpose – to win the jury’s sympathy and dismiss the case or receive a lenient sentence. The hard facts of six key witnesses were questioned by the defense and Manhattan district attorney prosecutor Cyrus R. Vance Jr.
The jury aquitted Weinstein on February 24 on two counts of predatory sexual assault that would have meant a life in prison as a sexual predator. The testimony of Annabella Sciorra was crucial.  She reported that she had been raped by Weinstein in 1994. Three years later she revealed she was sexually harassed by Weinstein at Cannes while promoting Copland produced by his company Miramax. The testimony of Mimi Haley’s sexual assault, a former production assistant, and the testimony of actress Jessica Mann that she was raped resulted in Weinstein being charged with two counts of rape and criminal sexual acts. 

Jessica Mann (right)

The Weinstein case exposed the cycle of violence against women and decontructed  the belief that women who kept in contact with Weinstein were complicit in their own abuse. The testimony of an expert witness on sex crime, forensic scientist Dr. Barbara Ziv, was powerful and instrumental to Weinstein’s conviction. Two days later she was hit by a car and left with broken bones. Law & Crime reported that the timeliness of the accident is suspicious. 
The Weinstein case moves on to California next and with the New York conviction the former producer has been brought to justice. His career is over after decades of tyrannizing at least 90 women in the film industry who wanted to advance their careers with a producer with a track record of award winning films. Weinstein is presently incarcerated in Rikers Island in New York, awaiting sentencing and may get 29 years in prison on March 11. Fortunately this trial has charged Weinstein and he will remain in prison.
Ironically, March 10 is the day after Roman Polanski was declared guilty on five charges of rape and drugging of a minor in 1977 and fled the US to avoid imprisonment. He can never return and must avoid countries that can extradite him.  
Since women spoke out about Weinstein, other women have come forward in the global film industry. At the 2020 César Awards in Paris on February 28, Portrait of a Woman on Fire was nominated for 11 awards and won best cinematography.  Following the Weinstein verdict, French director Céline Sciamma and actress Adèle Haenel shouting “bravo pedophilia”  and several other women left the room when the best director award went to Roman Polanski for J’Accuse (An Officer and a Spy). Haenel reported in November she had been subjected to “permanent sexual harassment” from the age of 12 to 15 years by French director Christophe Ruggia, who denied the allegations and was arrested. She was adamant that pedophilic directors not be rewarded prizes. 

Miriam Haley

At least five women have come forward since Polanski fled the US stating that he raped and drugged them as minors. According to French feminist activist Ursula Le Menn, Osez le Féminisme (“Dare to be feminist”), Polanski’s latest film implicitly seems to draw a parallel between himself as an innocent man and Alfred Dreyfus, who was accused and later exonerated for his crimes of treason in 1894. 
French feminist groups (Associations Féministes) proclaimed “If rape is an art, give Polanski all the Caesars!” Polanski did not attend the César ceremonies to avoid a large protest, a protest that we hope has forever changed the César Awards.
The success of predatory directors and producers who make prize-winning films such as Polanski and Weinstein is predicated on their practice of sexual assault and harassment. It is time to stop rewarding filmmakers whose careers are built on crimes against women.This is a difficult task when the personal lives of filmmakers are considered separate from their work. Many directors who abused women now will not be able to work again, but Weinstein managed to survive for years until women allied with each other in protest. #MeToo, born from the Weinstein assaults, has sent a riptide effect through society where predators are quickly being brought to task by their victims all over the world. Let’s hope that practice continues for decades to come and transforms the industry at its core.