LFF 2019 Day Eight: Portrait of a Lady on Fire and Maternal (both 2019)

My eighth day of the festival should have been filled with more films, but I ended up not going to the third. Perhaps you could say the long hours were getting to me (I did feel my eyelids getting heavy briefly during Portrait), but actually something else came up. However, the two I did see both presented fascinating films about women’s lives, neither of which featured men at all (or almost never), though of course patriarchal control was never too far from the surface.

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May 2015 Film Viewing Round-Up

Herewith some brief thoughts about films I saw in May which I didn’t review in full. Find reviews for the following below the cut:

Aru Kyohaku (Intimidation) (1960, Japan)
Aventurera (1950, Mexico)
Belle Époque (1992, Spain)
The Expendables (2010, USA)
Hanna (2011, UK/USA/Germany)
Hit So Hard (2011, USA)
John Wick (2014, USA)
Mad Max: Fury Road (2015, Australia/USA)
Plemya (The Tribe) (2014, Ukraine/Netherlands)
Tomboy (2011, France)

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Bande de filles (Girlhood, 2014)

Like 1995’s La Haine, it’s not always clear how much this story of poverty-stricken banlieue (suburban) life can be called ‘authentic’, in so far as it represents a stylised filmic depiction of a group of fictional characters rather than a documentary exactly (and certainly that was the main objection of the friend with whom I went to see this film). But for me, such issues seem to be beside the point, for the key is the representation of a specifically female perspective on such an existence. Yet in putting this across, it also largely avoids cinematic cliché — there are threats from the men who lurk around the central character Marieme’s housing project, certainly, but Marieme’s main interaction is with her fellow girls, and the way that they both nurture and compete is central to her development (and is a key theme to the film). Newcomer Karidja Touré as Marieme sometimes struggles to fully convince in her character’s move from shy wallflower to queen bee of her clique under the assumed name of Vic (for “Victoire”) to eventual drug mule via a number of makeovers and some schoolyard scrapping, but the filmmaking has vigour and style. At times there are extended musical sequences (including a long one as the titular ‘band of girls’ sings along to Rihanna in a Paris hotel room, shot more as music video), but these serve to underline the importance of music to community identity. It’s a film ultimately about being part of a group and the dangers of trying to live outside of one, and at depicting that it does very well.

Girlhood film posterCREDITS
Director/Writer Céline Sciamma; Cinematographer Crystel Fournier; Starring Karidja Touré; Length 112 minutes.
Seen at Ciné Lumière, London, Saturday 18 October 2014.