(WOMENSENEWS)–"Janis: Little Girl Blue," which opens today, is filmmaker Amy Berg’s wonderful profile of and tribute to the iconic singer Janis Joplin. Berg uses Joplin’s letters to her parents, friends and close colleagues as the narrative thread that binds a wealth of archival material and memorabilia. This includes previously unseen home movies from the singer’s childhood and famous footage of her legendary performances at Woodstock and other important venues, plus clips of charming and clowning Joplin winning over the press and her fans. There’s also coverage of Joplin’s longing for love, of her dark feelings of rejection and her drug addiction. Despite the film’s title, "Janis: Little Girl Blue" is more a celebration of the great Joplin’s talent, virtuosity and achievements than it is a chronicle of sadness or despair that lead to her tragic death by overdose. The must-see film will make a Joplin fan of you if you don’t already have that pleasure.
Also opening Nov. 27 is "The Danish Girl," an unusual love story based on the lives of the Danish artists Einar (Eddie Redmayne) and Gerda (Alicia Vikander) Wegener, a married couple who lived and painted in and around Copenhagen during the 1920s. With Gerda complicit, Einar dressed as a woman and adopted a feminine personality as Lili Elbe. The couple went out on the town as girlfriends. Gerda’s paintings of Lili made them both famous, and the couple moved to Paris. But Gerda was dismayed as Einar’s feminine persona began to demand full time recognition. Eventually Lili became the first person to undergo what was then called sex reassignment surgery. Adapted for the screen by Lucinda Coxon from David Ebershoff’s novel, this true story is a fascinating study about sexuality and role playing. The superb performances by Redmayne and Vikander are getting lots of Oscars buzz. "The Danish Girl" is a must-see.
"Killing Them Safely," filmmaker Nick Bernardini’s documentary about Taser stun guns, traces the history of these devices. From their invention by Jack Cover in 1969 to their licensing by brothers Rick and Tom Smith, who upped the zap and sold them as a non-lethal alternative to handguns, it chronicles how Tasers became standard issue for law enforcement officers — until the non-lethal claim was proven false and Taser use became controversial. The film calls into question the safety of Tasers and their ubiquitous use. And, by implication, demands further testing of Tasers if they are to be part of the police arsenal in the future. This important informational documentary raises questions that should have been raised decades ago. The film is a must-see for anyone concerned about social justice and weapons control, an issue that’s been raised by mothers around the country.
"Victor Frankenstein," which opened Nov. 25, is the latest film spawned by Mary Shelly’s iconic gothic novel. This unusual version focuses not on the title character, but on Igor (Daniel Ratcliffe), his attentive assistant whose dedication and servitude towards the young medical student not only sheds light on his dark and troubled life, but also fosters and records the legend of Viktor von Frankenstein. Who knows how Shelly would feel about this adaptation of her work, but it is an interesting twist to her complex, classy and classic femme-penned tale.
Stay tuned for December openers.
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