Anna Karina in Pierre le Fou


Aline Tashjian: Lesbian Feminist Cinéaste from Paris

Tribute to Aline Tashjian:  Lesbian Feminist and Cineáste from Paris

Soft-spoken and articulate Aline Tashjian passed away in Paris on September 23 after a long illness.
She was an ardent supporter of lesbian feminism and feminist cinema through the years and regularly attended the Créteil Films de Femmes International Women's film festival and the Cineffable Lesbian Film Festival, both in Paris.These are ongoing festivals where women can meet each year and see images of women, made by women, and how women live in other countries. Festival goers also come to catch up with their own community. The festivals are the best places for political activism and social contact in an international atmosphere of solidarity for women.

Créteil, March 2011.

If you wanted to know the films that were worth seeing at these festivals, you could consult Aline's program and her selections. Wherever there was a choice between the petite or the grand salle, Aline was among the women that chose the most provocative films with the most potent themes. 

Créteil Films de Femmes, March 2011. Festival director Jackie Buet (right), 2011.

These choices included political films about oppression, strong portraits of women who have made important contributions to culture, global portraits of women and their conditions in the work force and films with an artistic content that combine intelligent narratives with good visual imagery.

Aline loved to travel with her life partner Manue and recently went on trips to China, Greece and to Armenia where part of her French family originates. Her concern about health and good nutrition made you always think of the importance of the quality of life.  She was a hard worker and yet she took time to fill her life with valuable activities such as meeting good friends, sharing meals with fresh food from organic farming collectives, and demonstrating for just causes in Paris. Just for fun, she loved watching crime scene TV programs in the evening with Manue, who shared with her a dedicated interest in the Créteil and Cineffable festivals.  

Fluent in English, Aline attended French university where she studied various subjects such as film and media. She worked full time in the IT aviation industry and was respected in her field.
It is hard to imagine a world without Aline Tashjian, for she was truly a remarkable person with respect and consideration for transformative ideas and the people she loved. She leaves her life partner Manue and a number of good friends in the French and international community. Her contributions to valuable discussions at Créteil and Cineffable were important. The quality of her life makes our experiences with her vital and memorable. 

I came to know Aline through the Paris film festivals in the late 90's. I was immediately struck by her sincerity, intelligence and compassion for lesbian feminism and global women issues, and the inherent connections to issues of economics, the environment and pacifism - and how these all translated to the film medium. Conversations with Aline were always engaging and thorough. She and Manue introduced me to some of the internal discussions in French feminism, which are otherwise difficult for a French non-native. During the festivals we had many wonderful times together. I am grateful for this long lasting friendship, which is one of the most important ones I have.

Aline's Quartier
Little China in Belleville, Paris.
Belleville, March 2011.
In a video portrait (click above) by "Toxic Lesbian" created by Elena Toxico only last year (August 2010), Aline speaks of the beginnings of the lesbian feminist movement and the case of psychiatric treatment of lesbians. She explains that her political involvement did not begin as a lesbian feminist but with the pacifist movement and anti-war protests of the Vietnam war.
"Toxic Lesbian emerged in 2005 as a pure artistic language to virtual and live action, creation and investigation processes, including all kind of collaborations. An essential concept of the proposals is to generate works that do not have a commercial format but ephemeral and easy to disseminate ones.  In this sense, all proposed projects strongly connected with art, are conceived like performances. Around them, video art productions are the link with the visual language that will generate documentaries about collective social interaction and other testimonies related to the project" (Toxic Lesbian).

Moira Sullivan
San Francisco, September 30, 2011.


Enchanting Peter Cottontail Teen Ensemble at NCTC, San Francisco

Enchanting Peter Cottontail Teen Ensemble at NCTC, San Francisco


Lars Von Trier's Other Comments

Danish helmer Lars Von Trier surrounded by the women he doesn't seem to care very much about.

Lars Von Trier's Other Comments
    64 Festival de Cannes 
Published in Film International, May 2011.
He likes to run his mouth ... I think he dug himself in a deep hole today. Kirsten Dunst.

The press conference with Lars Von Trier after the screening of his film Melancholia in the Cannes Official Competition gave insights into the workings of the director's mind, not the film. It is clear that the Danish helmer does not like the press and turned every question against the journalists asking them. But he also doesn't seem to respect women by taking liberties in speaking for their behalf. There has been a lot of discussion about the comments which led him to being banned from the festival this year, but no one has really taken to him to task about what he said before the final two questions which took up five minutes of the press conference. The entire session on May 15 lasted 45 minutes.
In addition to his comments about Hitler, Jews and being a Nazi, he declared his next project would be a porn film with Kirsten Dunst (who immediately said no) and Charlotte Gainsbourgh. The two actresses smiled nervously and laughed away the alleged film that Von Trier kept on bringing up for 40 minutes until he launched into his German commentary. What do actresses need to do to stay endeared to their helmer?  In this case, Dunst and Gainsbourgh tolerated albeit with forced good humor relentless comments on this porn film. By the time he launched into his standup about Germans and Jews, the actresses had already been worn down by the previous comments. The line had to be drawn somewhere and it was made in the last five minutes. Disrespect to women, Jews and Germans are one in the same.

"When accused of misogyny, filmmakers employ classic techniques of neutralization, concentrating on denials of injury and condemnations of their condemners. However, a few acknowledge having created movies that demean women, in which case they usually point out compensating virtues".
King, Neal. "Spinning Misogyny: Filmmaker Defenses Against Charges of Deviance"
 The claim that Von Trier writes "great parts for women" is not altogether true. You might recall one of Von Trier’s student films about an old man who is a sex addict and preys on young women. Last year Charlotte Gainsbourg  played a woman who was burned at a stake for being a women's studies professor in Antichrist.  She said mother Jane Birkin was her biggest support on the set. For this, she won the best actress award at Cannes. Emily Watson allows herself to be sexually used by men at her husband's suggestion.  Actually, women don't seem to hang around Von Trier for long, great parts or not. He doesn't have a stable of regular actresses like Bergman or Woody Allen. Where is Emily Watson? Björk from Dancer in the Dark refused to speak to him after the film was finished and at Cannes, and although he begged Nicole Kidman at the 2003 Cannes press conference to be in a sequel to Dogville as part of his so-called new trilogy she has yet to return. I can guarantee you that Gainsbourg and Dunst won't be back after this year. An interview with Dunst at Cannes yesterday was canceled by the Rothchild owned  Mouton Cadet Wine Bar who didn't want to be associated with Von Trier. She was not welcome, said the owners. Who needs this reaction after working hard on a film  for months? Fortunately Kirsten Dunst was awarded the best actress at Cannes but had to add "thank you Cannes festival for keeping the film in the competition."

Melancholia is about depression and the end of the earth. The title addresses not only an emotional and spiritual malady but also the name of a planet that is rapidly approaching earth and is on a fatal collision course.
“Melancholia is a good title used many times, in all art that I like and is part of all good art. It has to do with longing, which is special for this film," said the Dane.
Well, we are longing for Lars Von Trier to grow up.  We are longing for him to get as real as his pictures. A real spirit-mind connection. 

I link this stupid YouTube video to illustrate that beneath Lars Von Trier's comments about Nazis and Jews is a disrespect for women.  It must also be added that no on seems to care about this, as the YouTube video illustrates, which ridicules women to make its point. No one is going to kick Von Trier out of Cannes for that. That kind of humor is accepted and invisible. Cannes is known for film "art" where women are tortured, burned or used: Irreversible, Brown Bunny, Antichrist.  Often these films are singled out for awards.
The first question at the Melancholia press conference was about the female characters played by Dunst and Gainsbourg. Dunst said that coming out of depression makes you stronger. Von Trier interrupted to mention Kirsten's “knowledge of depression”, asking “Can I say that? Otherwise forget it”. Gainsbourg replied,  “we are not women, we are Lars”, and saw nothing different from men and women experiencing depression. Oh but there is. Especially since a depressed Von Trier is clearly very different from how actresses interpret depressed women. 
Dunst said she became friends with "Lars", whereas Gainsbourg after three films says she does not know the director very well at all.
In response to this "rejection" "Lars" added, “well I know you from every angle”. Gainsbourg laughed nervously.  
Though Von Trier could not say for sure if he was going to make the so far unproduced Wasington,  he said he had plans to make a porn film.  He claimed that Kirsten asked for the “beaver” shot in Melancholia, and now she wanted more.
"Charlotte is behind it. I said there would be lots of dialogue, but Charlotte replied, 'We don’t give a shit about the dialogue'. So there will be a lot of unpleasant sex, a hard core film. Three of four hours long so I can sleep a little longer for the press conference”.
When asked about the "magic cave" in the end of the film, Von Trier launched into a monologue about the differences between Eastern and Western religion.  The Western approach he called the "orchid" school with its emphasis on suffering and the crucifixion. He was all for the Eastern "orthodox" approach that believes in the holy spirit:
"If a film can bring this light, the other side of life, the light side of planet earth, the holy spirit side, I am going to exploit it in the porn film. The Eastern church is very important". 
Orgasms would also be “very important in the porn film but they would all be fake, except Charlotte's", said the Danish melancholic. He explained that had to do with two ways of acting. "French" and for Kirsten it was the style she used in Spiderman. Dunst reminded him that he used of webs of lace and yarn in Melancholia. 

Von Trier then announced that  he had  changed his photographer for Melancholia (Manuel Alberto Claro) who taught him that women must be younger and younger and get naked in today's films. 
"Now they are going to be naked and extremely young." 
Von Trier won't officially be around this year at Cannes anymore, but it's almost guaranteed that he will be back with his porn film The Nymphomaniac next year, and all will be forgiven.

But the Danish filmmaker already knows this. He actually did not leave Cannes and hung around to give interviews to apologize for his German remarks. In his apology he didn't mention anything about getting out of line about his porn film. He "thought he was doing well", (as this clip shows), since the jokes about the alleged film flew by unscathed by the women he mocked. But it went too far. Von Trier claims he won't give any more press conferences. In exonerating himself, the world was able to see who is really is, a man with the social graces of a toad. 


Tribute to Maria Schneider

Through the Years with Maria Schneider: A Visual Essay

 Rethinking Last Tango
French culture minister Frédéric Mitterrand ("le conseil" in "Merry Go Round" (France 1977)  paid tribute to Maria Schneider, February 3, 2011:
"She remains the singular image of today’s woman, one of those living conduits of female liberty who is eternally reconquering a new generation".
Maria Schneider, Créteil 2001 
©Moira Sullivan

"For me, cinema is closer to  painting, and I like working with filmmakers who have a sense of the image. I like the idea that cinema remains a memory of our time,  and when filmed, that there is a trace of it. Then I met Antonioni, who is closer to what I am in life. He chose not to sell his soul, and many actors also abstain . After the Bertolucci film, I had golden bridges to sub-Tango, roles of sex symbols ... I ended it very quickly. I also had problems because they said: "She does not want to undress, she will not do the love scenes ..." That's what we always ask young women, even in 2001, it has not changed one iota, however. I'm still shocked about the fact that men of sixty years, Serrault, Poiret, Noiret, have a continuous career, compared to women the same age. Even Girardot. Between the sex symbol and grandma, there are no other interesting roles. I'm  a part of an association for those involved in difficulty called "La Roue Tourne"  which has existed since 1956. I'm just their ambassador. The president is eighty years old and she helps those she calls "disasters of glory." The actors have no unemployment insurance and when they have an accident they are not covered by social security. It's incredible when you consider that this association has paid the rent for Marcel Carné in the last ten years of his life ... but also that of Abel Gance. The state did nothing. Me, I also see a time when I will have difficulty working. The president said: "But, my dear Maria, it has always existed, now you're old, you are forty ! She has known actresses of the silent era, like Jacqueline Delubac. All this has not changed, even with women directors. There is a terrible crisis of roles, and  film seems locked up. Everyone has their place, and "family film" is an illusion". 

- Maria Schneider, interview for Créteil Films de Femmes, 2001. 


--> "With her face of the eternal child-woman and character of a small wild cat, she has conquered the world with the brilliance of a meteorite whose shower pulverizes everything in its path!"- Brigitte Bardot, 10 February 2011 

Traversing the empty space of Last Tango

From this point on Jeanne takes back her power from sadistic Paul
"A passage brilliant but ephemeral where, offering her velvet body to Marlon Brando at the height of her fame, she shocked, scandalized with her shamelessness but forever marked by her insolence in an era that she personalized".  
- Brigitte Bardot, February 10, 2011.
Maria Schneider, Chevalier - Ordre des Arts et Lettres, July 2010. Frédéric Mitterand, Ministre de la Culture.

With Michelangelo Antonioni, Cannes Film Festival, 1975. "Then I met Antonioni, who is closer to what I am in life. He chose not to sell his soul, and many actors also abstain".  
Maria Schneider, Créteil Films de Femmes, 2001.

Maria with the Italian "cantautore" - singer-songwriter Cristiano Malgioglio. Disco-tribute to late "cantautore" Lucio Battisti: "Señor Battisti" (1998).

Io Sono Mio (1978).


The Passenger (1975)
With Jack Nicholson  -  The Passenger.

Mama Dracula (1980)


Disco-tributo a Lucio Battisti dal titolo "Señor Battisti" - Cristiano Malgioglio and Maria Schneider 1996

Crime of Honor 1985

With Martin Scorsese and Michelangelo Antonioni

Faye Dunaway, Elizabeth Taylor, Maria Schneider

Créteil Films de Femmes 2001

With photographer Joan Townsend where Maria voluntarily committed herself to support her partner. It should be noted this was at a time when visitation rights was prohibited for same sex partners not only in Italy but everywhere.

La Repentie 2002

With Cristiano Malgioglio

Cannes Film Festival: Au Pays des Juliets (1992)

Luigi Comencini Commander:Ordre des Arts et des Lettres

With Alain Delon

Le Nuits Fauve (Savage Nights) 1992

At ceremony for Meryl Streep, Ordre des Arts et des Lettres 2000.

With Cristiano Malgioglio

What a Flash 1972

Cannes Film Festival Au Pays des Juliets 1992

With Jean Piere Léaud

What a Flash 1972

Hellé 1972

Hellé 1972

La Dérobade 1979

Maria Schneider says "to hell with it". She is going to abandon the (beautiful) set of "Caligula" to make a 100% percent feminist film.

A Woman Like Eve 1979

                                                      Maria in French gay nightclub
Cari Genitori 1973

--> Without a father who did not acknowledge her   - which was the drama of her life - she was the prey of all the glittering lures so that she burned herself to escape the neglect she dreaded.
Brigitte Bardot, February 10, 2011.

With photographer Joan Townsend, Rome 1975.

Èglise Saint Roch, Paris, 10 February 2011.
"She is a new little star in the Milky Way, far, far away from the atrocities and suffering that has been imposed on her on her passage on Earth." Brigitte Bardot, February 10, 2011.

Photos are fair use from the public domain.