Anna Karina in Pierre le Fou


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. 


Créteil Films de Femmes Ends on a Controversial Note

Créteil discussion after screening of Virginie Despentes' Mutantes
© Photo:Moira Sullivan
Ten years ago at Créteil Film de Femmes, the programming of Shu Lea Cheang's lesbian cybersex narrative I.K.U. was criticized by festival goers. "Porn has no place in a feminist festival", argued women who boycotted the event. 

Festival organizer, Virginie Despentes, Catherine Corringer, and Jackie Buet. 
©Photo: Moira Sullivan
Ten years later, Mutantes (Féminisme Porno Punk (France 2009), a documentary on "porno punk feminism" by French filmmaker and writer Virgine Despentes was screened to a packed house at "Petit Salle" at "Maison des Arts" at Créteil. Ironically,  footage by the Paris-based artist Shu Lea Cheang was included. The screening was the main event of the evening after the 33rd Créteil Films de Femmes Palmarès. The alternate event in the "Grand Salle", Donatella Maiorca's Viola di Mare (Italy 2009) projected to a small audience was about an early 20th century lesbian who dressed as a man in order to marry her childhood sweetheart.

Virginie Despentes thinking it over at Créteil: "the post-porn movement is a new stage of the feminist revolution." ©Photo:Moira Sullivan

Virginie Despentes came into the limelight in 2000 with her  rape-revenge cult narrative Baise-Moi .  In 2006 she wrote King Kong Theory about her experiences in the French sex industry, a pop culture treatise on the commodification of women and the aesthetics of "hooker chic". For the last four years Virginie has lived as a lesbian in Spain.

The screening of Mutantes followed a performance by Catherine Corringer based on the S.C.U.M. MANIFESTO by the late Valerie Solanas (1968). The parallel event was restricted by Corringer to a small group of spectators in the festival Satellite space. Both Despentes and Corringer attended the discussion following the screening of Mutantes. 

According to Despentes, Mutantes is a film "about lesbians, for lesbians". It is superbly edited with images of lesbians and transgender artists working in performance art. It is not a "mass movement" on the order  of 70's lesbian feminism and has no political agenda other than a reactive posture to radical feminist history glossed over with beguiling labels such as "feminist absolutionism".

Interviews* are made with "queer" academics such as Beatriz Preciado , lesbian and transgender artists and porn directors and stars such as Maria Beatty and Annie Sprinkle. Mutantes gives the impression that lesbian porno punk is rampant in society as the current focus of lesbian and transgender artists.   

Mutantes begins with a collage of images of book covers of 70's radical feminist texts by the late anti-porn activist Andrea Dworkin and civil rights lawyer Catherine MacKinnon. This comprises the extent of the political overview. The filmmaker claims she contacted MacKinnon and Antoinette Fouque, founder of the French "Mouvement de Libération des Femmes" (MLF) for the film who declined to participate. Thereby, Despentes believes she gave  "feminist absolutionists" a voice in her film.

Critics of Andrea Dworkin and Catherine MacKinnon argue that the first anti-porn legislation in the US (later repealed in Minneapolis) was backed by ultra-right activists. The 1983 legislation and subsequent efforts to pass it in Indianapolis, Massachusetts and Washington was prompted by the experience of the late porn star Linda Boreman (Lovelace) who was sexually harassed in porn films made by her ex-husband. MacKinnon represented her until her death in 2002. The Minneapolis legislation specifically addressed pornography as a form of sex discrimination and a civil rights violation, and sought to give women the right to seek damages under civil rights law. It was not based on issues of morality or sexual obscenity as is often claimed by pro-porn advocates, and throughout Despentes' film. 

In the Supreme Court of Canada anti-porn legislation was passed in 1992 but rather than upholding porn as a civil rights violation law it was used to target lesbian and LGBT pornography. The enforcement of the statute was unfairly credited to the drafters of the legislation. Despentes' documentary does not present this history.  
Porn critics have  drawn attention to what lesbian porn director Maria Beatty calls the "fast food" consumption of hardcore porn. According to film studies academic Linda Williams "pornography" is just "choreography".  When it was pointed out that Linda Lovelace became an anti-porn activist at a film studies lecture Williams nonchalantly replied, "well she still made money off of porn". 

Radical feminists such as MacKinnon and in the end Dworkin are heterosexuals who had no issue with lesbian porn made by lesbians since at the time they were trying to create anti-porn legislation there was little being made. The anti-porn agenda of radical feminism specifically addressed hardcore pornography and civil rights issues.
Lesbian Porno Punk is a reaction to the radical feminism of the 70's by claiming to be what it wasn't: a pro-sex, pro-pornography movement.  It would be more accurate to identify "Lesbian Porno Punk" as a self-generating art form rather than a reaction to 70's radical feminism.

Historically, 70's radical feminism secured many freedoms denied previous generations of women.  "Lesbian Porno Punk" appropriates some of these radical feminist inroads as "post-feminist discourse". For example, porn star - Annie Sprinkle seems to have invented the wheel for women's self-examinations in her performance art, which was an agenda of the Boston Women’s Health Book Collective (BWHBC) in "Our Bodies Ourselves" 40 years ago. 

When asked at the Créteil discussion if heterosexuals could achieve sexual equality, Dispentes claimed it was impossible. What is clear in "Lesbian Porno Punk" is that women and transgenders don't need men for sex and artificial sex organs eliminate the need for heterosexual sex entirely.  The Situationists thought along these lines in the 60's since one of the agendas was to  "demand better sex organs". 

Sex organs aside, the concept of gender fluidity espoused by academics such as Judith Butler (Gender Trouble) enjoys wide currency in "Lesbian Porno Punk". The transformation from women's studies to queer studies was heavily influenced by her work. 

Butler limits the meaning of lesbian as "desire", which excludes the political posture and woman-identification of lesbian feminism. "Lesbian" was historically stripped of meaning until 70s lesbian feminism. It still remains a provocation. According to Butler who speaks for lesbians and gay men alike - but not as a lesbian:
"Queer is not being lesbian. Queer is not being gay. It is an argument against lesbian specificity: that if I am a lesbian I have to desire in a certain way. Or if I am a gay I have to desire in a certain way. Queer is an argument against certain normativity, what a proper lesbian or gay identity is."
Lesbians of Lesbos claim exclusive rights to name.
The island of Lesbos initiated a legal claim in 2008 to restrict the use of lesbian for inhabitants of their island. But ridiculous actions from small Greek islands aside, the generic use of "queer" in academia as substitute for "lesbian" turns the wheel another notch making this a vacuous if not altogether redundant term. When lesbian is stripped of politics, of feminism, it is target for queer academic claims of "essentialism" or specific "natural" identity.

If gender is no longer "fixed", the choice of better sex organs, or specific gendered bodies becomes the practice. Tribe 8 musician Lynn Breedlove says in Mutantes: "I'm a guy but I am not going to change my gender". 

Through all of this one can't but wonder why 70s radical feminism is systematically watered down to an anti-pleasure, anti-sex, and thereby anti-freedom movement.  Susan Faludi's classic text Backlash (1992) has some answers, but is seldom implemented. ("Even the beauty magazines are saying it: Harper's Bazaar accuses the women's movement of having "lost us [women] ground instead of gaining it.")

When three semi-dressed women in high heels parade through the streets of an American city in Mutantes and are met by men who jerk off as they saunter by, the efficacy of lesbian porno punk activism comes to mind.

There are many questions to the discourses presented in Despentes' film.  Mutantes is well made and technically proficient. It is an excellent documentary about lesbian and transgender artistry. Artists historically enjoy a freedom of avantgarde expression. The film is a rich tableau originating in San Francisco with echoes in France, Spain and Italy.

The anti-porn movement has a history that is absent in Despentes' film, some of which concerns civil rights, sexual harassment, trafficking, coerced prostitution, incest, and alcohol and drug addiction.Somehow all this history is equated with "feminist fundamentalism", if ever an intriguing oxymoron.

Mutantes is problematic if as a starting point for discussion it's conceit prevents a real discussion that tackles its premises. At times that is how the discussion at Créteil went.

Interviewees in Mutantes:

Teresa Villaverde - "Transe" Screened at Créteil Films de Femmes

Teresa Villaverde and festival director Jackie Buet, Creteil.
©Moira Sullivan
Amidst a couple of cries against the film in progress, Teresa Villaverde's Transe (Portugal 2006) unfolded: an epic saga about a young Russian woman who leaves her country in search of more opportunity and who winds up being trafficked as a sex slave in Italy. Its not sure if the grumbling in the Grand Salle at Créteil Films de Femmes on April 2 was consciously made because the subject was so disturbing, or because of the unconventional form of the film that may have put spectators on edge. When giant trees fall in the forest at a road stop for the woman in transit, the beginning of the loss of self is profoundly foreshadowed. After the trees hit the ground, the images are blurred; this begins Sonia's (Ana Moreira) trance: one that she is within the entire film, as are we as spectators of cinema.

There is nothing random about the way Villaverde frames each scene. Her creative use of the camera and editing to create a picture language that symbolically follows the narrative is brilliant. Villaverde sets the focal lengths, angles and mobility of the camera, arranges the shots, and tells a story not only in words but in symbols.

We should remember that Sonia is a young woman in her 20s who is exposed to the most vicious degradation and loss of personal freedom one can experience as a woman. Trafficking is a huge problem today and women are doubly at risk for being sex slaves but also illegal aliens and thereby are not free to speak out against their captivity. According to Villaverde, perpetrators are sophisticated in hiding the signs of physical abuse.

Why does Sonia not resist? Why did she allow herself to be put in the trunk of a car because of a supposed raid by immigration authorities in Germany? She told the perpetrator no so many times. At every no, there is a sigh of relief. Short lived as the seduction and entrapment wins.  Why does she not jump out of the car when she has a chance? Why does she not run? The loss of self is so complete in this film that we cannot really expect any answers to satisfy these questions. We are not in her situation. What can we do about this barbarianism today? Does it continue so that prostitution can continue without any legal barriers?

We know that trafficking must stop and the buyers of sex, as in Sweden, must be prosecuted.

Is it a dream that Sonia envisions a young boy with a rifle in the room aiming at her, where she is forced to service buyers of sex? There are many facets of her trance to reconcile and Villaverde does not make this easy for us.

Sonia before leaving Russia.
First loss: Sonia loses her cloths.
The first tradeoff of Sonia in a wheat field.
The decrepit Italian site where women are sold as sex slaves.
The distraught mentally challenged man. His father bought Sonia for him.


Postcards to Maria Schneider

On February 10, Maria Schneider's funeral was held at Èglise Saint-Roch in Paris. She was cremated at Père Lachaise, and her ashes will be scattered at 
Le Rocher de la Vierge in Biarritz.
I was not able to be in Paris, so these photos this spring day in San Francisco at Golden Golden Park, Baker Beach and Stinson Beach are an homage to Maria.