Although condemned by some cultural gatekeepers and critics as indecent (even after And God Created Woman was edited, and dubbed, for its U.S. release), Brigitte Bardot's stunning portrayal of a freethinking woman became the celebrated subject of Simone de Beauvoir's 1959 essay The Lolita Syndrome. In it, de Beauvoir described Brigitte Bardot as a "locomotive of women's history" for good reason. The petite but curvy French actress captured the collective global imaginations of women and men alike. Still, the picture adds up to more than merely Bardot's obvious physical allure and headstrong attitude. It is a timeless social document of the ways that a young woman's allure can fuel, destroy, and build the dreams of men who fall under her spell. If Helen of Troy was "the face that launched a thousand ships," Brigitte Bardot was the girl who incited a sea change of sexual liberation in Western culture.
Originally entitled A Ma Soeur! (To My Sister), this film's inapt English title Fat Girl (2001) does the picture an injustice. This obvious public relations ploy, to stir controversy with a derogatory term, cheapens writer-director Catherine Breillat'sbold thematic statements regarding budding female sexuality in the modern world, and feminist ideals at large.
Anaïs Reboux plays Anaïs Pingot, the Rubenesque 12-year-old sister to the lithe Elena (Roxane Mesquida) who, at the age of 15, is anxious to lose her virginity. Anaïs's observant, if pokerfaced, vantage points on morality and social conditions enable her to survive a traumatic event through the brutal life lessons she vicariously learns from the world around her. Fat Girl is an understated picture that doesn't shy away from any of the ambitious feminist heights that Breillat fearlessly mounts with surgical precision. Breillat's ear for naturalistic dialogue is especially exact during an extended seduction scene that is a centerpiece of the film. Like Catherine Breillat's watershed debut feature (A Real Young Girl) Fat Girl is a masterpiece awaiting inspection from audiences prepared to grapple with its unveiled meanings and insightful commentary on womanhood.
Claude Chabrol's Story Of Women delves into the difficult conditions of a Nazi-occupied French town that transforms a mother of two into a hardened opportunist. Isabelle Huppertwalks a fine line as an anti-heroine whose broken relationship with her PTSD-suffering husband (François Cluzet) culminates in a betrayal of epic proportions. Marie's motivations shift as she lifts her family out of poverty by providing soap-induced abortions to local prostitutes with whom she carries on friendships. Because abortions were criminalized in France — from 1920 to 1975 — due to a grievous loss of French men during World War I and II, Marie-Louise Giraud became an ideal scapegoat for a French court looking to send a message to the French populace at large.
Writer-director Talya Lavie takes inspiration from Jean Vigo's once banned 1933 film Zero For Conduct, about a bourgeoning rebellion in an all boys boarding school, to transpose a narrative drawn from her experiences serving in the Israel Defense Forces. Although Zero Motivation might play as a light comedy to Israeli audiences, the film echoes systemic abuses suffered by female soldiers in the America military where rape is a common occurrence. When our defiant heroine soldier Zohar (Dana Ivgy) attempts to lose her virginity to a fellow soldier, she requests that he "be more gentle." His callous response, "I'm combat, baby" speaks volumes about the sexist effects of his military training. From a feminist perspective Zero Motivation is possibly the most challenging film of the four titles included in this brief survey of feminist themed films currently streaming on FilmStruck.
Turner's subscription movie service FilmStruck is an online streaming service, managed by Turner Classic Movies, that offers an exhaustive collection of current and classic arthouse films, and is the exclusive streaming site for the Criterion Collection. FilmStruck is currently available on Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, on the web, as well as on iOS and Android devices. FilmStuck will soon be available for access on Roku and Google Chromecast.