Selective Viewing

An exploration of film, video and other media by Kate Blair

Category: feminist film

Marlene Dietrich’s face: feminine power and the subversion of gender norms

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Numerous homages have been written about Marlene Dietrich. She had incredible star power that is unmatched by basically anyone else. I’m not saying that Dietrich was the greatest star that ever existed, but quite possibly the strongest star persona ever constructed. Dietrich is a dream, and a powerful point of identification for women, especially because she so frequently bridges the gap between femininity and masculinity – not just in her appearance, but in her behavior.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Review – Dogfight (dir. Nancy Savoca, 1991)

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Dogfight might just be the most heartwarming, feminist leaning movie about young love you’ve never heard of. Despite being a great example of 1990s independent cinema, it seems to have fallen off the radar somewhat. I happened to find it on a surprisingly comprehensive list of feminist films on Flavorwire, which included a few of my favorites, and even had a number of movies I’d never seen or heard of before. Somewhere in the middle of the list was this little gem. It stars Lili Taylor and River Phoenix as a couple of late high school age kids in the early 1960s, when Vietnam had yet to completely take over the public consciousness. It’s one of the most touching coming of age films I’ve ever seen, as well as a tender perspective on early sexual desire. Having a woman behind the camera and two immensely talented performers makes all the difference in transforming both characters into deeply realized human beings rather than tropes. Read the rest of this entry »

Long takes and women

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One thing the camera can’t do adequately is represent someone’s interior life – it can just hint that such a life exists. In some cases, this is even more powerful, because cinema evokes psychology through images of what we see every day. Much has been made lately about how novels help teach us to empathize, but I think cinema does the same, even without the arsenal of words and shifting perspectives that allow books to highlight interiority. However, through its ability to purely represent exteriors, cinema also demonstrates how humans react to the world through our bodies, not just our minds, and how interiority isn’t so separate from exteriority after all. Long takes are one of the best ways to bring these themes out.  Read the rest of this entry »