16 posts categorized "Women's Cinema"

January 08, 2017

ZERO MOTIVATION

Zero MotivationTalya Lavie’s 2014 black comedy, about a woman’s place in the Israeli Army, plays like a cross between “Reform School Girls” and “Catch 22.” Lavie skewers religious and military indoctrination in the context of psychological and physical abuses levied against female soldiers by male and female officers alike.

Writer-director Lavie takes inspiration from Jean Vigo's once banned 1933 film Zero For Conduct, about bourgeoning rebellion in an all boys boarding school, to transpose a narrative drawn from her experiences serving in the Israel Defense Forces. Although this movie might play as light comedy to Israeli audiences, the film echoes systemic abuses of female soldiers in the American military where rape is a common occurrence.

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When our rebellious 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 effect of his military training. Zero Motivation is a troubling movie in spite of its primarily comedic tone.

"War, what is it good for? Absolutely nothing." —Edwin Starr

Zero Motivation

Not Rated. 97 mins. (B) (Three stars — out of five / no halves)

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February 10, 2016

THE DUKE OF BURGUNDY

Duke of BurgundyWriter/director Peter Strickland (“Berberian Sound Studio”) explores the power dynamics involved in a lesbian sadomasochistic relationship that exists in a utopian atmosphere of rural isolation. This is an erotic drama for adults. Leave “50 Shades of Grey” to the kiddies. This nuanced sexual tale of erotic BDSM topping from the bottom is tantalizing, titillating, and dirty in a way that only the human imagination can explore with such deviant romantic sophistication on the big screen without going full porn. Mistress/Slave. Yummy.

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Danish actress Sidse Babett Knudsen plays Cynthia, a butterfly expert who resides alone in a lush country mansion somewhere in Europe. Cynthia’s full-time maid Evelyn (wantonly played by Chiara D’Anna) seems to take payment for her frequently spotty work, in staged punishments that her mistress Cynthia doles out with stern deportment and appropriately black fetish attire. Formal costume precision is required. So too is a proper attitude of distant attraction.

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Evelyn may be marginal in performing her house chores, but she makes up for it in the bathroom, at the service of her full-bladdered mistress. A purposely-unwashed pair of Cynthia’s soiled panties gives cause for a human-toilet golden shower session behind closed doors that leaves Evelyn hungry for more, more, more, more toilet action in the future.

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Strickland’s sensual visual touches of stylistic homage to softcore masters such as Jess Franco give the film a sustained sense of lush erotic and dramatic tension, but he allows the racy narrative to go flat. Evelyn’s outré desire for humiliation drives a lesbian relationship centered on fulfilling the couple's fetishistic desires.

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Evelyn's submissive coquettish character gains more pleasure than her older dom Cynthia does from their scripted BDSM sessions together. Equality is not all it's cracked up to be.

Duke of Burgundy

The film’s hook rests with the couple’s bottom-topping paradigm, which proves to be the key to the women's complex sensual connection. Evelyn leaves specific handwritten instructions for Cynthia to fulfill. The submissive is calling the shots. Perhaps this is the secret to the recipe. This self-scripted method for Evelyn to achieve her desired fetishistic scenarios has intrinsic limits that Cynthia isn't able to fulfill, at least not yet.

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Although it’s clear that Evelyn is working up to serving as a full-duty (#1 & #2 — shocking, I know) human-toilet to her more mature mistress, the filmmaker inexplicably reneges on the dirty motivation. What could have given the film a truly shocking aspect evaporates when romance deposes the fetishistic elements of the women’s unique bond. Rather than the specially designed toilet chair she requests, Evelyn has to settle for a trunk where she is imprisoned overnight at the end of her mistress's bed.  

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“The Duke of Burgundy,” with its perfectly disguised title, could serve as a compass-marker for other (more daring) filmmakers to follow in the footsteps of. Mainstream cinema and pornography continue to overlap. Where are the daring, transgressive filmmakers of the 21st century? No modern-day John Waters? What is wrong with the world?

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Neither entirely frustrating nor satisfying, here is an enjoyable erotic film populated with only female characters. As such, "The Duke of Burgundy" affords the audience a much-needed break from Cinema's predominance of male influence, albeit from the director himself. It would be interesting to see how a more daring [female] filmmaker would follow the story’s fetishized elements toward their logical trajectories. Perhaps then Evelyn could achieve the transformation into a human-toilet that she desires. What then?

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Not Rated. 104 mins. (B-) Three Stars

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February 07, 2012

IN DARKNESS

In_darknessAgnieszka Holland’s unforgettable adaptation of Robert Marshall’s non-fiction book “In the Sewers of Lvov” tells the story of a group of Polish Jews who hid for months underground from the Nazis. That a duo of Polish sewer inspectors, who aid the desperate Jewish refugees, act foremost as extortionists adds of the many thematic shades of grey Holland explores.

Agnieszka Holland - Biography | Artist | Culture.pl

For all of the filmmaker’s apt efforts at bringing realism to the film’s labyrinthine sewer environment, the film struggles to establish a clear protagonist. Sewer inspector Poldek Socha (Robert Wieckiewicz) gradually learns to sacrifice in order to help the de facto prisoners, rather than profit from their dilemma. Still, the character is no position to convey the story’s complex themes of survival under dire conditions. The Jewish group’s leader Mundek (Benno Furmann) shoulders his burden of responsibilities with emotionally poker-faced resolve that pays off during a suspenseful encounter with a Nazi soldier. Still, Benno Furmann comes across as too pristine an actor for the role. 

Agnieszka Holland: the veteran director takes on modern Poland in her  award-winning new film — The Calvert Journal

Holland utilizes sexual encounters between the demoralized Jewish victims to express a persistent thread of humanity that endures regardless of external dangers. The encounters serve as flashes of light in a story with very little of it.

Oscar-Nominee 'In Darkness' is a Grimy Alternative to 'Schindler's List' |  IndieWire

Rated R. 165 mins.

3 Stars

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