By Jennifer Merin
WeNews film critic
Friday, March 4, 2011
Thanks March, for bringing us a strong showing of movies directed by women and also focused on us. The trove is richly diverse in genre, subject and style. Happy viewing, women. This month's for us!
(WOMENSENEWS)--Opening on March 4, "The Imperialists Are Still Alive" is writer-director Zeina Durra's smartly satirical first feature about a well-to-do Manhattan artist of Arab descent whose liberated lifestyle and work challenge Western stereotypical notions about Arab culture. The film's subtly subversive attitude is evident from the start, when Asya (Elodie Bouchez) is seen posing for her own art work, wearing an Arab women's headdress, but nude from the neck down.
Asya's international coterie--including a Mexican medical student (Jose Maria de Tavira) who's becoming more than a friend--is a chic crowd whose behavior defies their inherited traditions. But Asya's discovery that her friend, Faisal, has been sent home on charges of terrorism challenges her carefree lifestyle. This is an appealing and well-made film. And the unwieldy title--taken from a line in Jean-Luc Godard's "La Chinoise"--is a clue to Durra's sense of cinematic tradition.
March 11 brings the release of "Certified Copy," directed by Abbas Kiarostami, the acclaimed Iranian filmmaker who often points the camera on engaging women. Set in Tuscany, "Certified Copy" is the first film Kiarostami has directed outside of his homeland. Its sophisticated and sly comedy of manners charts an intriguing relationship between a woman (Juliette Binoche) and man (William Shimmel) who seem to be strangers. When a café owner treats them as man and wife, they relate to each other as though they're a couple with a complex, intimate history. You're never quite sure whether they're pretending or revealing hidden truths about their relationship and their interplay is a captivating study of what's real and what's merely a 'certified copy.' The film is a gem.
Set mid-March aside and gear up for a movie-going marathon later in the month. Six films of special interest to women open March 18. Here they are, in no particular order:
No. 1: Cary Fukunaga's "Jane Eyre" brings Charlotte Bronte's beloved novel to the screen with a somber and sober emphasis on the hard and dark realities of impoverished, powerless Victorian-era girls and women. Convincingly played by Mia Wasikowska, young Jane is determined to escape her troubled childhood and survive bleak and threatening circumstances. Screenwriter Moira Buffini's script imbues period mannerisms with psychological innuendo and moves through several intriguing plot twists. A great spin on a classic.
No. 2: Catherine Hardwicke, having sunk her teeth into "Twilight," returns to the gothic genre with "Red Riding Hood." It's set in a medieval village where a series of killings are attributed to a werewolf thought to be one of the town's citizens. The hooded heroine, Valerie (Amanda Seyfried), has not only her grandmother to attend to, but also a love interest--who may or may not be the werewolf. Rated PG-13 for violence, the film is too scary for kids. The "Twilight" generation will undoubtedly find it seductive but will you? Perhaps so, if you're intrigued by hooded damsels in gothic distress and crave Hardwicke's helming hand.
No. 3: Distressed girls are also key players in "Cracks." This dramatic thriller is directed by Jordan Scott, daughter of Ridley Scott and niece of Tony Scott, both of whom executive produced this film, her first feature. Based on Sheila Kohler's novel, "Cracks" is set in an elite British boarding school where a class of repressed teenage girls comes under the influence of a strange teacher who creates calamitous competitions and mutual mistrust among them. Oh, yes, and then there's the matter of the teacher's twisted attachments. No spoilers here--see it to satisfy your curiosity.