14 August 2014
I like Scandal (2012-present) because I can’t think of a better way than giving my brain a luscious sugary treat than sitting down to watch Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington) do anything whatsoever. My only complaint: I just don’t find President Grant (Tony Goldwyn) attractive. And after two years of mulling over the problem, I’ve decided that it’s because his eyebrows aren’t thick enough.
That’s right. Of all the inane, random things to write about, I’m writing about men’s eyebrows. (And it’s not just Fitz. The whole show is littered with men with light eyebrows!)
So, at the risk of embarrassing myself further, let me offer a visual history of thick brows that have titillated me throughout my personal life (in rough chronological order as I discovered them):
Ahh. That feels better. Back to more serious feminist work soon, I promise.
19 March 2013
I’m pretty sure this was taken on the set of Whatever Happened to Baby Jane (1962) — portraying two veteran actors often described as bitter rivals. Maybe that’s true. Maybe it’s just a cliché that two successful women, fading stars in their 50s, must be prone to catfights.
You know what? I don’t care about that rivalry stuff. There’s something so perfect about this image, crystallizing as it does a moment between two women with long careers as revered actors — professional women laughing together over drinks, cigarettes, and some forgotten joke. This is the laughing of two independent women (Bette had divorced husband #4 a couple of years earlier, while Joan’s husband #4 had died just a little earlier than that). This is the laughing of women who are in on the same joke. Don’t you wish you knew what it was?
Oh, if only I had a director’s chair with my name on it, written in just this font. Perched right next to another broad’s matching chair for drinking and laughing.
16 October 2012
Don’t you wish this was your best friend? That slight smirk, which revealed maybe a little self-deprecation in with its pragmatism. I can’t see this face without seeing the woman in Rosemary’s Baby and Harold and Maude — because, you know, sometimes a face is perfect all the way from youth to seniority. Ruth, R.I.P.
Maybe you remember this song from West Side Story (1961) as being dated, and perhaps a fantasy of primitivism: Anita (Rita Moreno) fantasizing about Cadillacs in America while reminding her boyfriend/ dance partner Bernardo (George Chakiris) that the “natives” back home in Puerto Rico were perpetually unemployed and pregnant.
But watch it again and tell me if it isn’t an improvement on our own debate 50 years later. This song remains a slap in the face to the American dream, and also a paean to it. More important, watch the dynamism between the dancing, the camerawork, and the ultimate seriousness of the debate amongst these young Latinos. This sequence fundamentally subverts the occasional ick of the lyrics, pushing Latino voices to the forefront and allowing them to debate amongst themselves the pros and cons of being brown in America.
And holy crap, the dancing. It’s exhilarating.
26 September 2012
Charlotte Rampling was breathtakingly beautiful as a young woman. She is now 66, still gorgeous, and vexingly still wears same dress size, still appears in bathing suits on screen. Angelina Maccarone’s documentary explores a woman who has let us look at her onscreen for nearly 50 years.
She has never made it easy, specializing in difficult, hard characters with complicated motives. The bitch in Georgy Girl (1966), the wife who falls in love with a chimpanzee in Max (1986), or — most infamously — the concentration camp survivor who carries on a strange relationship with a Nazi guard in The Night Porter (1974); all these parts made her inscrutable, kept us from liking her. Famously, her co-star Dirk Bogarde called it “The Look”: those distinctive, hooded eyes that achieve so much without giving much away. As she’s grown older and her face acquired more character, she has acquired a capacity to convey not just disdain but a degree of self-loathing so all-encompassing that it chills.
What we see of Rampling onscreen is a mystery of minimalist emotion that nevertheless somehow smacks you in the face. About her role in the new film, The Eye of the Storm (2012), David Denby writes, “Speaking in not much more than a whisper, [Rampling] is magnetically evil, with occasional flashes of a complex sensibility and poetic invention — often just a flutter of her eyes or a strategic turn of her head.” How does she do that?
In Charlotte Rampling: The Look she explains that early on she learned she was exceptionally photogenic; yet she had to learn how to survive the constant appearance of the camera before her. “Exposure is huge,” she explains. “You have to find a way not to feel invaded all the time, by lenses, by people looking all the time. If you are to give anything worthwhile of yourself, you have to feel completely exposed.”
Perversely, Maccarone’s documentary begs you to read in between the lines. It does not seek exposure but something more allusive, abstract — the passing of time, the inevitability of change. She shows Rampling in conversation with old friends and collaborators, conversations that allow Maccarone to trace those earlier appearances on screen and in photographs. At times, Rampling even revisits old sets like a staircase she rambled down in Georgy Girl or a room where she danced, bare breasted, to a Marlene Dietrich tune in The Night Porter.
Maccarone never asks how Rampling feels about her sister’s suicide back in the 60s, nor about her relationships with men, nor whether she is close to her children. In avoiding those gossipy realms so stereotypical of “women’s lives” as produced by Hollywood, the director clearly wants to make a point about respecting the actor’s craft, her career. This is a film about Rampling’s achievements, one of which is the flowering of her ability to play ambivalent, morally questionable, and occasionally impossible characters like Sarah Morton, above, in François Ozon’s terrific Swimming Pool (2003).
And yet I completed the documentary still feeling that the director hadn’t done justice to Rampling’s skills; I think I wanted a more explicit directorial hand in showing us, as Denby did in that great quote above, what Rampling can do with her face. But Maccarone stays out of it, allowing us to arrive at our own conclusions. Perhaps rather than see this documentary one ought to see Under the Sand (2000) or even her small, despicable part in Melancholia (2011) instead. And yet for the unadulterated pleasure of seeing La Rampling, well, it’s streaming on Netflix.
26 April 2012
Alert reader and fellow Space Bitch JE is keeping me on track with my Mini-Marathon of Cult Horror Films about Female Monsters — at least insofar as she sends me the best YouTube snippets ever. Witness this classic Mexican film from the prolific El Santo franchise. In this one, a professor recruits the heroic wrestler El Santo (“The Saint”) to protect the professor’s daughter from being kidnapped by evil female vampires who intend to marry the innocent girl to the Devil.
But why am I telling you the plot? If we’ve learned anything from these Cult Films About Female Monsters, it’s that the storylines are the flimsy bits that get us ricocheting between sexy wackiness and scary titillation. To wit, this scene in which las mujeres vampiro demonstrate how to take a nasty, crackle-skinned vampiro and transform her into a 1960s sexpot:
And if that’s not enough to get you leapfrogging through the full-length film (available in chapters on YouTube), here’s a handmade trailer for it made by a diehard fan:
Some might say, “I watch this and feel brain cells dying in my head.” But I say, this film is extra-appealing because of the sequel, Santo en la venganza de las mujeres vampiro (1970; no translation necessary, right?). And did I mention Santo en la casa de las brujas (1964, or El Santo in the Witches’ House)? That’s what I’m talking about.
23 April 2012
I saw this brief, remarkable art piece — Christian Marclay’s short film Telephones — in a museum exhibit not long after its creation in 1995. It stuck in my head for years afterward, making me all the more excited to find it again on YouTube.
No one has ever made it so clear how the technology of telephones — and the spaces of telephones — work to forward the drama of films. And how different (disappointing/ difficult) everything became when computers became the technology that might advance the story. Oh, telephones.
Just think what Marclay will do with his new film, The Clock (2010), a 24-hour long art piece/computer program calibrated to coincide with the actual time at which the viewer watches it. There’s a terrific article about this in a recent issue of The New Yorker. I can hardly wait.