Movies Directed by Women
Perhaps the type of heroines female film directors often choose reflects who they are as people: rebellious, defiant, haughty, tough. They have to be to enter this male-dominated industry. Female film directors still have a minority voice in Hollywood, but the few that have found their way in, or at least into independent movie making, have proved their profound talents. They've tackled subjects as diverse as fairytales, rock bands, queens, suicide, and vampires and earned Academy Awards and millions in revenue for their efforts.
The Virgin Suicides
Based on a book by Jeffrey Eugenides, The Virgin Suicides is directed by Academy Award-winning Sofia Coppola and stars Kirsten Dunst. The movie takes place in the 1970s and tells the story of a group of sisters who struggle with growing up after their sister's suicide. Their parents, both mathematicians, play a pivotal role in driving them all to despair with their restrictions that confine them inside a joyless home. A group of younger boys take an interest in the girls and attempt to free them.
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Also directed by Sofia Coppola and starring Kirsten Dunst, Marie Antoinette is a historical film with a modern soundtrack. The movie won an Academy Award for its lavish costume design. Marie Antoinette, often a ridiculed figure in history, is humanized in this rendition. Frustrated with her new marriage to a husband she doesn't love who seems to have no intention to consummate it, Marie is largely oblivious to the political unfoldings around her. Her greatest crime is ignorance, and the film makes her out to be more of a bird trapped in a gilded cage than a villain.
The Runaways is the first feature film effort of Floria Sigismondi, who previously directed music videos for Marilyn Manson. The movie stars Dakota Fanning and Kristen Stewart as Cherie Currie and Joan Jett. Despite Jett and Stewart being the big names, the movie actually focuses on Cherie, the leader singer of Joan's original band, The Runaways. The movie almost seems to showcase an amoral experiment -- what happens when you place teenagers under the supervision of someone as demented as Kim Fowley. Fowley is played by Michael Shannon, who gives a stellar performance, as usual, but Fanning's subtler acting is also to be lauded, as it successfully builds emotional rapport with the audience as Cherie spirals out of control while under the spell of drug addiction. Sigismondi manages to combine a strong story with her talent for visuals, a feat that often eludes big budget directors like Tim Burton.
Catherine Hardwicke directed the first film of the Twilight series, which launched the popular book series into infinity. Hers style is distinctively different than the directors who followed her utilizing a combination of a big budget and indie techniques. Hardwicke seems to have more of a knack for directing her actors than with action scenes. The slice of life high school scenes are the movie's strongest scenes.
Also directed by Catherine Hardwicke, Thirteen is a far superior effort compared to Twilight, but the material is obviously much better here. The screenplay was a combined effort of Hardwicke and Nikki Reed, who stars in the film as Evie. The story is based on Reed's own rocky life. Her friend Tracy, played by a young Evan Rachel Wood, provides a more innocent foil to Evie, as the pair delves into drugs, sex, and crime at the tender age of thirteen. Killer performances all around and an appropriate soundtrack sells the story.
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The Last Mistress
Catherine Breillat is a French film director, known for her explicit erotic content that has cause sensations around a number of her films. For The Last Mistress, Breillat wanted to add sex to the period movie. Period movies often have a tendency to pretend that sex doesn't really exist. Asia Argento plays the haughty mistress, with Fu'ad Aït Aattou playing the part of her lover and Roxane Mesquida playing the young wife. Like Twilight, much of the movie involves close-ups of Aattou's gorgeous face. As a whole, the movie seems to be a sarcastic examination of marriage and its hypocrisy.
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Bluebeard is another film by Catherine Breillat. This is not a modernization of the fairytale like other versions of the film, but a classic retelling. Lola Créton gives an enchanting performance as Marie-Catherine, Bluebeard's latest wife. Careful color palettes and compositions make this highly picturesque despite its low-budget fairytale. The film is not marred by clumsy action scenes with weak computer graphics.
Anatomy of Hell
Another Breillat film, Anatomy of Hell is the most graphic. Controversy resounded when Breillat cast Italian pornographic actor Rocco Siffredi in a lead role. The film explores men's negative views of women and the emotional effects of these attitudes on women. Neither of the main characters are named. Amira Casar plays the woman, who meets the man, played by Rocco, at a club after she attempts suicide and he stops her. A dark, moody film, most of it takes place in the woman's sparse room on a cliff overlooking the sea and most of the scenes consist of long, intimate, haunting conversations.
Red Riding Hood
Another film by Catherine Hardwicke, Red Riding Hood also suffers from bad action scenes, and god-awful computer graphics. Unlike Thirteen or Twilight, there isn't enough reality in the dialog or situations to save the film. The plot seems to go nowhere, and Amanda Seyfried is hardly spell-binding despite looking gorgeous in every scene. The set design and cinematography are beautiful, owing to Hardwicke's background as a set designer, but they're not enough to save the story which falls flat on its face.
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Speak is directed by Jessica Sharzer and stars a young Kristen Stewart. The movie was filmed years before the Twilight mania while Stewart is still a virtual unknown. The film is based on a novel by Laurie Halse Anderson and tells the story of a high school freshman who becomes selectively mute after being raped at a party by an older student. Despite the intense subject matter, there is still a cheesy, made-for-TV. quality to the movie as Melinda Sordino, the character played by Stewart, expresses herself through her art lessons with a helpful teacher. But the movie is unique for portraying the unusual condition of selective mutism.