29 Great Films to Watch on Filmstruck Before November 29th
If you’re anything like us you’re still reeling from the devastating loss off FilmStruck. The reasoning AT&T gave for shutting down the service was that it was niche…. NICHE? Its sad to think that classic cinema is considered niche, but to soften the blow we have curated 29 films for you, that’s a film a day from now until November 29th to watch on FilmStruck. BINGE AWAY!
xoxo, Women & Film
The Adventures of Prince Achmed (1926) directed by Lotte Reiniger
The Adventures of Prince Achmed is—at 65 minutes—technically the first animated feature ever.
A stunning feat of animation, The Adventures of Prince Achmed visually conveys tales from Middle Eastern mythology through stop-motion and shadow puppetry. The film is directed by Lotte Reiniger, a German pioneer of puppetry, animation, and filmmaking, in addition to being one of the earliest known women directors. Before Walt Disney could change the world with his own art and innovative animation, Lotte Reiniger had to pave the way. Her art style and work using early multiplane camera techniques made Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, and every following animated feature, possible. Disney’s Fantasia and Sleeping Beauty most certainly derived stylistic inspiration from Lotte’s films, beyond the obvious factor of them all being fairy tales.
2. A Woman Under the Influence (1974) directed by John Cassavetes
Mabel: I always understood you, and you always understood me and that was always just how it was, and that’s it. “Till death do us part,” Nick. You said it. Remember? He said, “Do you, Mabel Mortensen, take this man?” “I do.” “I do,” Nick. “I do.” Remember, I said “It’s gonna work because I’m already pregnant.”
Nick: Don’t let that mind run away on you now.
Mabel: Remember how you laughed?
Nick: Don’t, Mabel.
Mabel: Nick. You laughed.
Mabel: Don’t you remember? And he was mad as a big toad.
Nick: Don’t do that.
Mabel: Hey, don’t be sad. I know you love me.
Mabel: We had plenty of time to find that out, didn’t we? You and I know. You see that, Nick? That’s how close we are. And they can’t pull us apart. They can’t force us apart. ‘Cause we’re together
Nick: I don’t know who you are.
Mabel: Don’t say that, honey. I’m not sore at you. I’m not mad or anything.
Nick: Mabel. . .don’t.
Mabel: You sit there and pretend you. . .all of that doesn’t mean. . .and you know. You know. It’s us. You’re going with them out there on the outside.
Nick: Be still.
Mabel: And we’re supposed to be on the inside. We were always there.
Nick: Shut up!
Mabel: You little. . .teeny. . .skinny. . .little. . .bug!
A landmark film in terms of style, authenticity, and representing women, relationships, and mental illness, A Woman Under the Influence is a vehicle for Gena Rowlands to give the performance of a lifetime as Mabel Longhetti. Known for his American take on cinema verite, John Cassavetes directs Rowlands as she navigates balancing her wellbeing and sanity with being a mother, wife, and woman.
3. Portrait of Jason (1967) directed by Shirley Clarke
“ I thought I’d end up as a clown. All clowns are happy and sad. You can sell sex, comedy and a little tragedy — people love to see you suffer, and believe me, I’ve suffered.”
An extraordinary 1967 nonfiction film that's just been rereleased in a fabulous restored version from Milestone Films. Shot over 12 hours in Clarke's apartment at New York's Chelsea Hotel, the film could hardly sound simpler: It's basically one man with a drink in his hand who talks into the camera about his life.
Yet this man is anything but ordinary — he's a loquacious 33-year-old hustler who dreams of having a nightclub act. And from the beginning, he could hardly be more complex or elusive.
He starts the movie by saying his name is Jason Holliday, which sounds rather upbeat, but we quickly learn that's not his real name — he was born Aaron Payne. And for the next 105 minutes, Jason tells you his story.
4. The Watermelon Woman (1996) directed by Cheryl Dunye
“Sometimes you have to create your own history. The Watermelon Woman is fiction.” - Cheryl Dunye
The first feature film directed by a Black lesbian, The Watermelon Woman is both charming and political. Director Cheryl Dunye also stars in the comedy as Cheryl, a videographer and video store employee making a documentary about a mysterious Black actress from the 1930’s know only as “The Watermelon Woman”. Cheryl navigates romantic relationships, friendships, identity, while coming into her own as a filmmaker.
5. La Ceremonie (1995) directed by Claude Chabrol
“They're pathetic. What do they know? They've got it all. Their biggest worry is what color car to buy. Or which cousin stole half the inheritance. I'd be happy with a tenth of what they have. I'd have the life I wanted, instead of just the opposite.”
Dubbed “the last Marxist film” by director Claude Chabrol, La Ceremonie tells the story of Sophie (Sandrine Bonnaire), an illiterate lower-class woman who is hired as a maid by a wealthy family, the Lelievres. Sophie is a good employee, though idiosyncratic and strange; that is until she meets the fiery Jeanne (Isabelle Huppert). Sophie and Jeanne spend increasing amounts of time together and slowly reveal secrets about their pasts to one another, revealing the other’s dark side through this process. Inspired by a French true crime, the film is a rumination on style, tension, class conflict, and excellent performances by Bonnaire and Huppert.
6. In the Mood for Love (2000) directed by Wong Kar Wai
Mister Ho: I sometimes wonder what I'd be if I hadn't married. Have you ever thought of that?
Su Li-zhen: Maybe happier . . I didn't know married life would be so complicated. When your single, you are only responsible to yourself. Once you're married, doing well on your own is not enough.
Sensual and devastating in equal measure, Wong Kar-Wai’s In the Mood for Love captures the loneliness of unfulfilled desire better than almost any other film of the 2000s. Wong uses lush visuals, precise framing, and evocative slow-motion to illustrate both the beauty of unexpectedly falling in love and the fractured feeling of knowing it can never be consummated. Its quiet, subtle tone masks a deep well of love and pain that only occasionally shows its face amidst the many visual repetitions, riffing on ideas of adultery, heartbreak, and infatuation without a clear schema. In the Mood for Love operates on instinct and intuition, engendering a tender sensation that is ultimately transient but creates the illusion of permanency. It’s a love story about love itself and how it lingers in the minds of its subjects far longer than any one relationship ever can.
7. Girlfriends (1978) directed by Claudia Weill
“The most influential film about female friendship you’ve never heard of”
Susan: You’re very inflexible.
Eric: Who, me?
Susan: I don’t like you when you’re inflexible.
Eric: I don’t like it when you exaggerate to make sure I’ll listen to you.
Susan: Well, I can’t stand it when you don’t listen to me.
Eric: I don’t like it when you’re loud.
Susan: Well, I don’t like you when you’re not loud. I don’t know why I like you.
Eric: Because you can tell me why you don’t like me.
Susan: I like me when I don’t need you.
Eric: I don’t want you to need me. I want you to want me.
Susan: There’s no truth like bullshit.
Eric: Very good, Susan. 2 points.
Susan: Thank you.
Before Girls and Sex and the City, Claudia Weill made Girlfriends, a love story about two roommates and the struggles that ensue when one of them gets married. Essentially, Girlfriends is a break-up film as the friends’ symbiotic way of life gets cut short when life gets in the way. The two women’s narratives – career woman and housewife – represent post-sixties womanhood. While second wave feminism meant that more women were seeking independence and careers in the city, they were still expected to settle down once they married. Caught between the two only available choices and narratives, Susan and Anne discover they don’t fit either. Girlfriends is the first feature film to be funded mostly by grants instead of private funding.
8. House (1977) directed by Nobuhiko Ôbayashi
“……House is 1970s Japanese pop culture at its most delightfully unhinged extreme – a mid-night movie about nubility and dismemberment marketed to a matinee audience of adolescents and ‘office ladies’, a predigital maelstrom of cinekinetic visual ingenuity produced during one of the most tepid seasons in late twentieth-century Japanese film-making, a modern masterpiece of le cinema du WTF?!……” - Chuck Stevens
How to describe Nobuhiko Ôbayashi’s indescribable 1977 movie House (Hausu)? As a psychedelic ghost tale? A stream-of-consciousness bedtime story? An episode of Scooby-Doo as directed by Mario Bava? Any of the above will do for this hallucinatory head trip about a schoolgirl who travels with six classmates to her ailing aunt’s creaky country home and comes face-to-face with evil spirits, a demonic house cat, a bloodthirsty piano, and other ghoulish visions, all realized by Ôbayashi via mattes, animation, and collage effects. Equally absurd and nightmarish, House might have been beamed to Earth from some other planet. Never before available on home video in the United States, it’s one of the most exciting cult discoveries in years. - Criterion
9. Valerie and Her Week of Wonders (1970) directed by Jaromil Jires
“I’m asleep, and this is all a dream,”
Based on a 1945 Novel, Valerie and Her Week of Wonders follows 13 year old Valerie via a loose plot through a week of daydreams, nightmares, or both through fairy-tale like imagery and visual poetry. The adventure that flows forth invokes the darkest tropes of European folklore (vampires, black magic) and history (corrupt clergy, witch burnings) to dramatize Valerie’s initiation into womanhood and her quest to find her parents. But Valerie also faces a much broader challenge, inextricably tied to her sudden maturity: she must discern whom she can trust, now that everyone wants something from her. Men lust after her, women aren’t any safer-envious of Valerie’s youthful beauty. As she moves through her dream, Valerie seems simultaneously to be growing up—learning to live by her wits—and offering herself as a sacrifice.
10. Black Girl (1966) directed by Ousmane Sembène
Ousmane Sembène was one of the greatest and most groundbreaking filmmakers who ever lived, as well as the most renowned African director of the twentieth century—and yet his name still deserves to be better known in the rest of the world. He made his feature debut in 1966 with the brilliant and stirring Black Girl. Sembène, who was also an acclaimed novelist in his native Senegal, transforms a deceptively simple plot—about a young Senegalese woman who moves to France to work for a wealthy white family and finds that life in their small apartment becomes a prison, both figuratively and literally—into a complexly layered critique of the lingering colonialist mind-set of a supposedly postcolonial world. Featuring a moving central performance by M’Bissine Thérèse Diop, Black Girl is a harrowing human drama as well as a radical political statement—and one of the essential films of the 1960s.
11. Caravaggio (1986) directed by Derek Jarman
Jarman’s most profound reflection on art, sexuality and identity retells the life of the celebrated 17th-century painter through his brilliant, nearly blasphemous paintings and his flirtations with the underworld. Caravaggio incorporates the painter’s precise aesthetic into the movie’s own visuals, while touching on all of Jarman’s major concerns: history, homosexuality, violence and the relationship between painting and film. Starring Nigel Terry, Tilda Swinton and Sean Bean.
12. Charulata (1965) directed by Satyajit Ray
This film by Satyajit Ray, India's most renowned filmmaker, tells the story of Charu (Madhabi Mukherjee), a woman in late 19th-century Calcutta. She is neglected by her busy husband, Bhupati (Shailen Mukherjee), a politically active newspaper publisher. When Bhupati's younger cousin Amal (Soumitra Chatterjee), a sensitive, intellectual student on break from the university, comes for an extended visit, Charu enjoys Amal's company, and the two while away the hours in conversation. But as their relationship grows closer, Charu falls in love with Amal. The film, based on a popular Indian novel, marks a significant point in Ray's career, as it bears the influence of Western film on his directorial style. Shown at the 1965 Berlin Film Festival, the film was curiously and inexplicably rejected by the committee at the Cannes Film Festival.
13. Desert Hearts (1985) directed by Donna Deitch
Vivian: Come with me. Ride with me to the next station.
Cay: What are we gonna get settled in 40 minutes?
Vivian: I’ll talk fast.
Cay: Send me a postcard when you get there. What is it you want?
Vivian: Another 40 minutes with you.
Based on Jane Rule's novel “Desert of the Heart” (1964), Donna Deitch's narrative feature debut centers on a burgeoning lesbian romance between libertine casino worker Cay Rivvers (Patricia Charbonneau) and repressed university professor Vivian Bell (Helen Shaver) in Reno, Nevada in the late 1950s, a climate wherein being queer was...complicated. Landmark in its positive portrayal of sapphic romance and celebrated for its passionate, sensual bedroom scenes that nearly fog the camera's lens, Deitch's vision for Cay and Vivian's nuanced onscreen relationship explores the tension inherent in a sheltered woman accepting her newfound sexual self.
14. Full Moon in Paris (1984) directed by Eric Rohmer
“The people in my films are not expressing abstract ideas – there is no “ideology” in them, or very little – but revealing what they think about relationships between men and women, about friendship, love, desire, their conception of life, happiness…, boredom, work, leisure…. Things which have of course been spoken about previously in the cinema, but usually indirectly, in the context of a dramatic plot.”
A young woman looks for the true meaning of love and learns the truth of the old saw, "You don't know what you've got until it's gone," in this fourth installment in Eric Rohmer's, “Comedies and Proverbs” series. The story opens with the proverb, "He who has two women loses his soul. He who has two houses loses his mind," and centers on Louise (Pascale Ogier) and her live-in lover, Remi (Tchéky Karyo), a Paris architect and noted tennis player. Their relationship hits an important juncture when Remi decides he wants to get married, while Louise wants to continue living the life of a party girl. Eventually, Louise decides to escape her lover's oppression and become intimate with loneliness, so she moves to Paris where she makes complex plans to have her cake and eat it too. Unfortunately, things don't go exactly as planned as she finds herself the object of an amiable writer's affections.
15. Himiko (1974) directed by Masahiro Shinoda
Masahiro Shinoda (Double Suicide) at his most theatrical and sophisticated. Set between highly stylized settings reminiscent of Greek drama and the archaic Butoh dance performances of Tatsuji Hijikata’s Ankoku Butoh dance troupe, Shinodas Shakespearean take on the myth of Himiko, the shaman priestess of the Sun Goddess is a breathtakingly beautiful and original film about power, treason and love. A freestyle, imagined telling of the life of shaman queen Himiko, who falls in love with her half-brother, weakening her powers and thus putting her position to risk. Produced by the Art Theatre Guild and Shinoda’s own company, it’s the kind of experimental cinema that no studio would have financed, complete with a discordant Takemitsu score, extreme violence, and Butoh dancers gamboling in wild costumes and various states of undress.
16. Juliet of the Spirits (1965) directed by Federico Fellini
“I don't care about the clemency you offer me but the salvation of my soul.”
Middle-aged Giulietta (Giulietta Masina) grows suspicious of her husband, Giorgio (Mario Pisu), when his behavior grows increasingly questionable. One night when Giorgio initiates a seance amongst his friends, Giulietta gets in touch with spirits and learns more about herself and her painful past. Slightly skeptical, but intrigued, she visits a mystic who gives her more information -- and nudges her toward the realization that her husband is indeed a philanderer.
17. LA CIÉNAGA (2001) directed by Lucrecia Martel
“I don’t like swimming pools, because I have the feeling that they are always dirty, like an infection. At the same time, in Argentina, there are not many public swimming pools, so I think that the idea of having a cube of water just for a few people is like having a slave – to think that all of this water belongs to you as your property. I like to shoot in swimming pools, though, because it’s like a room, below the level of the ground, full of water. There are many similarities between the behavior of a body inside a swimming pool and out of the pool. Both are in an elastic space. It’s fluid. The sound outside and the waves inside the pool both touch you in the same way. I think there are a lot of similarities in perception – between being in a pool and being in the world.”- Lucrecia Martel
"La Cienaga"- The Swamp, is a dank, humid meditation on rotting families. By its end we are glad to see the last of most of its characters, but we will not quickly forget them. The release of Lucrecia Martel’s La Ciénaga heralded the arrival of an astonishingly vital and original voice in Argentine cinema. With a radical and disturbing take on narrative, beautiful cinematography, and a highly sophisticated use of on- and offscreen sound, Martel turns her tale of a dissolute bourgeois extended family, whiling away the hours of one sweaty, sticky summer, into a cinematic marvel. This visceral take on class, nature, sexuality, and the ways that political turmoil and social stagnation can manifest in human relationships is a drama of extraordinary tactility, and one of the great contemporary film debuts.
18. Lady Snowblood (1973) directed by Toshiya Fujita
A woman seeks the revenge that was her birthright in this action thriller from Japan. A gang of ruthless thieves break into the home of a rural couple, and after taking their valuables, they murder the husband and rape the wife once they've beaten her senseless. When the ravaged wife tracks down one of the thieves and attacks him, she is arrested by police; she was left pregnant by the rape, and gives birth to a daughter months later, dying shortly after delivery. The daughter, Yuki (Meiko Kaji), is raised by a priest who teaches her how to use a sword and trains her to show no mercy to the men who brutalized her family. When she turns 20, Yuki sets out to seek revenge, looking beautiful and tranquil on the outside but possessing a powerful taste for vengeance against those who wronged her and her mother. Lady Snowblood was written by Kazuo Koike, who also scripted several of the most memorable films in the Lone Wolf and Cub series.
19. LES RENDEZ-VOUS D’ANNA (1978) directed by Chantal Akerman
In one of Akerman’s most penetrating character studies, Anna, an accomplished filmmaker (played by Aurore Clément), makes her way through a series of European cities to promote her latest movie. Via a succession of eerie, exquisitely shot, brief encounters—with men and women, family and strangers—we come to see her emotional and physical detachment from the world.
20. Meeks Cutoff (2010) directed by Kelly Reichardt
The year is 1845, the earliest days of the Oregon Trail, and a wagon train of three families has hired mountain man Stephen Meek to guide them over the Cascade Mountains. Claiming to know a shortcut, Meek leads the group on an unmarked path across the high plain desert, only to become lost in the dry rock and sage. Over the coming days, the emigrants face the scourges of hunger, thirst, and their own lack of faith in one another's instincts for survival. When a Native American wanderer crosses their path, the emigrants are torn between their trust in a guide who has proven himself unreliable and a man who has always been seen as a natural born enemy.
21. Mishima : a life in Four Chapters (1985) directed by Paul Schrader
Plenty of writers live for their art, but few died for their art as ambitiously or publicly as Yukio Mishima—imperialist, bodybuilder, actor, director, best-selling author, homosexual, commander of his own private army, icon, and the subject of Paul Schrader's 1985 magnum opus Mishima: A Life In Four Chapters, which is being released by Criterion alongside Mishima's own 1966 short film Patriotism. Calling Schrader's masterpiece a mere biopic doesn't do it justice. It's more a dreamy, hypnotic meditation on the tragic intersection of Mishima's oeuvre and existence that takes place as much in its subject's fevered imagination as the outside world. For Mishima, life was essentially an extravagant prelude to death, a race toward poetic oblivion that finds a glorious musical analogue in Philip Glass' fearlessly kinetic score. From an early age, Mishima was fixated on the erotic possibilities of dying young and beautiful. That obsession found frequent expression in his writing, and Schrader's four-chapter film elegantly juxtaposes scenes from Mishima's life with dramatizations of three of his novels, all of which act as funhouse mirrors reflecting and distorting their creator's fetishization of death.
Mishima tried to make Japan conform to the dictates of his imagination, but in the film's shattering climax, he learns that the real world is a messier, less predictable place than the world of ideas. John Bailey's cinematography alternates between stylized black and white in flashback scenes, muted color realism in the scenes documenting Mishima's last day, and lush abstraction in fiction scenes, dominated by gorgeous, theatrical, lurid pinks and sunburst golds. Just as his subject sought to reconcile intellect and action, words and deeds, Schrader finds a perfect union between sound and image, weighty ideas, and giddy sensual rapture.
22. Nenette et Boni (1996) directed by Claire Denis
Nenette (Alice Houri) is a 14-year-old girl with an attitude problem who runs away from her boarding school only to knock on the door of her older brother Boni (Grégoire Colin). Boni has his own problems most of which center around an erotic fixation with the baker's sexy wife (Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi). He is very reluctant to take Nenette in. Then he finds out she is pregnant. As their relationship grows and adjusts, each begins to understand what maturity it takes to bring a new life into the world. Claire Denis, best known for her film Chocolat, directed. This French film won top honors at the 1996 Locarno Film Festival.
23. Opening Night (1976) directed by John Cassavetes
“Films today show only a dream world and have lost touch with the way people really are... In this country, people die at 21. They die emotionally at 21, maybe younger... My responsibility as an artist is to help people get past 21... The films are a roadmap through emotional and intellectual terrain that provides a solution on how to save pain.”
― John Cassavetes
Actress Myrtle Gordon (Gena Rowlands) is a functioning alcoholic who is a few days from the opening night of her latest play, concerning a woman distraught about aging. One night a car kills one of Myrtle's fans who is chasing her limousine in an attempt to get the star's attention. Myrtle internalizes the accident and goes on a spiritual quest, but fails to finds the answers she is after. As opening night inches closer and closer, fragile Myrtle must find a way to make the show go on.
24. The Lure (2015) directed by Agnieiszka Smoczynska
This genre-defying horror-musical mash-up—the bold debut of Polish director Agnieszka Smoczyńska—follows a pair of carnivorous mermaid sisters drawn ashore to explore life on land in an alternate 1980s Poland. Their tantalizing siren songs and otherworldly auras make them overnight sensations as nightclub singers in the half-glam, half-decrepit world of Smoczyńska’s imagining. The director gives fierce teeth to her viscerally sensual, darkly feminist twist on Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Little Mermaid,” in which the girls’ bond is tested and their survival threatened after one sister falls for a human. A coming-of-age fairy tale with a catchy synth-fueled soundtrack, outrageous song-and-dance numbers, and lavishly grimy sets, The Lure explores its themes of emerging female sexuality, exploitation, and the compromises of adulthood with savage energy and originality.
25. Touki Bouki (1973) directed by Djibril Diop Mambéty
A debut feature made for thirty thousand dollars by a self-taught twenty-eight-year-old director who had previously made only two shorts (albeit remarkable films in their own right), Touki Bouki won the FIPRESCI prize at the 1973 Moscow International Film Festival and single- handedly challenged stale critical assumptions that African cinema was inextricably wedded to social realism and immune to experimental narrative strategies. Considered one of the most important African films ever made, Djibril Diop Mambéty’s dazzling fantasy-drama Touki Bouki features two young lovers who attempt to escape from Dakar for the glamour and comforts of France. Alternately manic and meditative, the film paints a vivid, fractured portrait of Senegal in the early 1970s
26. Vagabond (1985) directed by Agnès Varda
“You are always in the world. Even in Vagabond. I am not on the road, I am not eating nothing. But in a way we all have a Mona. We all have inside ourselves a woman who walks alone on the road. In all women there is something in revolt that is not expressed.z” - Agnès Varda
Mona Bergeron (Sandrine Bonnaire) is dead, her frozen body found in a ditch in the French countryside. From this, the film flashes back to the weeks leading up to her death. Through these flashbacks, Mona gradually declines as she travels from place to place, taking odd jobs and staying with whomever will offer her a place to sleep. Mona is fiercely independent, craving freedom over comfort, but it is this desire to be free that will eventually lead to her demise.
27. WR: Mysteries of the Organism (1971) directed by Dusan Makavejev
"Maybe it is like a mirror. People hold it up to themselves and see reflected only what they are most offended by."
What does the energy harnessed through orgasm have to do with the state of communist Yugoslavia circa 1971? Only counterculture filmmaker extraordinaire Dušan Makavejev has the answers (or the questions). His surreal documentary-fiction collision WR: Mysteries of the Organism begins as an investigation into the life and work of controversial psychologist and philosopher Wilhelm Reich and then explodes into a free-form narrative of a beautiful young Slavic girl’s sexual liberation. Banned upon its release in the director’s homeland, the art-house smash WR is both whimsical and bold in its blending of politics and sexuality.
28. Blind Chance (1981) directed by Krzysztof Kieślowski
Witek (Boguslaw Linda) is a young medical student who is no longer sure whether he wants to become a doctor, and his future will be determined by whether or not he makes the train that he is running to catch. Through three possible scenarios revolving around specific choices, Witek experiences his possible futures depending upon whether he decides to continue with his schooling, join up with the Communist Party, or become an anti-Communist rebel.
29. Yentl (1983) directed by Barbara Streisand
Yentl, in which Barbara Streisand was the first woman to win a Golden Globe for best director, tells the story of Rebbe Mendel (Nehemiah Persoff), a single father who teaches the Talmud, a sacred text of Judaism, to the boys of his small Polish town. Behind closed doors, he also instructs his daughter, Yentl (Barbra Streisand), despite the fact that girls are forbidden to study religious scripture. When Yentl's father dies, she still has a strong desire to learn about her faith -- so she disguises herself as a male, enrolls in a religious school, and unexpectedly finds love along the way.
Bonus: Shorts, Interviews, and Ephemera
Split Screen: Season 7, Episode 3 (1999) produced by the Independent Film Channel
In the late 90’s, the IFC ran a show called Split Screen that interviewed notable independent and art-house filmmakers and fostered conversations about the changes in cinema. This particular episode features Miranda July, wherein her interview, she discusses her DIY distribution of women-made films, “Big Miss Moviola”. It is a fascinating concept that I have heard in feminist film mythology, and it is riveting to hear July explain how the operation works and to ponder how far women in film have come in the last twenty years.
Black Panthers (1968) directed by Agnès Varda
Extraordinary French filmmaker Agnès Varda, known as much for her narrative films as her documentary efforts turns her lens to an important American political movement in Black Panthers. Filled with empathy and filmed with Varda’s iconic eye, the film follows a Black Panthers demonstration in Oakland, California following the imprisonment of Panthers co-founder Huey P. Newton. Varda’s films are collectively a study in understanding the world, particularly human behavior, through turning a camera on it, and here the French director shines a light on an issue many Americans could not comprehend at the time.
Owning Our Stories: Classics of Lesbian Cinema
Iconic lesbian actor and comedian Lea Delaria walks the viewer through a brief history of lesbian films, also going into the hardships of finding accurate representation in film. Delaria also discusses the strange phenomenon of male directors being drawn to telling lesbian stories, like Carol and Blue Is The Warmest Color. This interview is an excellent glimpse into the oft overlooked world of lesbian films, and most of the films referenced are available to watch on Filmstruck.
An Act of Love (2018) directed by Lucy Knox
This Australian short film tells the story of identical twin sisters with an overwhelming sense of closeness and oneness. That is until one sister begins to question this bond and act out against her twin. Through captivating visuals and excellent cinematography, these tight-knit sisters unravel before us.
Kitty (2016) directed by Chloë Sevigny
The directorial debut of actress and fashion icon Chloë Sevigny, here Sevigny lends her signature style to tell the story of Kitty, a young girl who feels isolated and strange in her growing body, and daydreams that she is transforming into a kitten. An adaptation of a short story by the same name by Paul Bowles, Kitty is both whimsical and somewhat dark, and filled with lush aesthetics that could only come from Sevigny’s singular vision.
(The End) Of History Illusion: Miu Miu Women’s Tales #14 (2017) directed by Celia Rowlson-Hall
Packed full of psychedelia and haute couture, up-and-coming director Celia Rowlson-Hall chose to make a parody advertisement for a luxury post-apocalyptic bunker in this short film commissioned by Miu Miu. At once humorous and haunting, the film forces the viewer to surrender to technicolor dreams and nightmares translated to screen through the director’s characteristic incorporation of choreographed dance and motion.
Emotion (1966) directed by Nobuhiko Ôbayashi
This 1966 experimental film by Nobuhiko Ôbayashi exhibits the bravura visual style and unique approach to horror that would bring the filmmaker's later films, such as House, international attention.
Bath House (2014) directed by Niki Lindroth von Bahr
At once the demented love child of a dystopian Wes Anderson animation and something out of a David Lynch daydream, as well as something completely singular, Bath House is the dark comedy from Swedish animator and director Niki Lindroth von Bahr. The film centers on six anthropomorphic characters meeting at a bathhouse, which seems innocent enough at first...until it takes a dark turn.
Split Screen: Scorpio Rising (1999) featuring Kenneth Anger
A pioneer of queer and experimental cinema, as well as arguably the inventor of the music video, Kenneth Anger makes mostly short experimental films that revolve around themes of sexuality, the occult, imagery appropriated from mythology and metaphysics, and leather gay culture. In this interview with Criterion, Anger gives a rare glimpse into his process and meaning behind one of his most notable works, Scorpio Rising.
The Alphabet (1968) directed by David Lynch
While you’ve probably seen Lynch’s heralded works like Twin Peaks, Blue Velvet, and Mulholland Drive, his early short films, which are eerily on-brand for the idiosyncratic director, are increasingly hard to find. The Alphabet, starring Lynch’s first wife, Peggy Lynch, is an experimental short about the inner life of a sick woman who is terrorized by hallucinations of the alphabet coming to life.