44/52 BRIGHT STAR
For me, being a director is about watching, not about telling people what to do. Or maybe it’s like being a mirror; if they didn’t have me to look at, they wouldn’t be able to put the make-up on. ~Jane Campion
No year of women-directed films would be complete without a Jane Campion entry. Campion–who wrote and directed this tale of romantic love between Fanny Brawne and the poet John Keats–is one of my very favorite directors in the world and someone I would kill to work with. I think I’ve seen this film four or five times and it still moves me with its beauty and heart.
Campion’s cinematic eye consistently astonishes me. Her shots are works of art–stunning, observant and elegant. Actors in her films always turn in nuanced and emotionally profound performances–probably because she has the patience to let those performances unfold naturally. She is a surprising filmmaker–one who never goes for the obvious or trite and who embraces the off-beat.
There’s a dangerous quality even in this romantic film. Campion’s characters are not of the Austen world…rather, they careen through the constraints of their society in a way that makes them seem so much more human, alive and relevant than most period films.
Next up for Campion is Season 2 of Top of the Lake. I can’t wait.
43/52 INTO THE FOREST
I’ve actually made a decision to do films with female leads now for the rest of my life. The history of cinema is so horrifically unbalanced, that the little that I can do to re-balance it — I love seeing women be interested and complicated and strong. If the men are doing male characters and I am doing male characters, then who is going to do the female characters?
Canadian writer/director Patricia Rozema’s career spans such diverse but beautiful films as I’ve Heard Mermaids Singing, Grey Gardens, Mansfield Park and Kit Kittredge: An American Girl. For television she’s directed on Tell Me You Love Me, In Treatment and Mozart in the Jungle.
Into the Forest is a profoundly female take on an apocalyptic event that bonds two sisters even closer as they learn to survive in a new world. The cinematography and shot composition is stunning and perfectly illuminates the material. Ellen Page–who produced and brought the original novel to Patricia Rozema to adapt–and Evan Rachel Wood, as the co-leads, are as good as ever and it’s a pleasure to see them together on screen.
Many of the reviews I read focused on the film’s quiet and almost anti-climatic approach to storytelling. I, however, was deeply affected by this film’s commitment to the feminine point-of-view and to the truth that female journeys are often internally experienced rather than externally expressed. As the oldest of three sisters, I couldn’t help but watch the story through the lens of, What would we do in that situation? It made me homesick and grateful for my sisters and the complex bond that this film so accurately captures.
This is a journey worth taking. Into the Forest is available on Amazon Prime.
42/52 RED ROVER
Brooke Goldfinch is an Australian writer/director who made this short film exploring the last day before the end of the world. A cult has gathered to “drink the Kool-Aid” so to speak but two young members refuse to believe in or cooperate with the end of days. Goldfinch was fascinated by how people might spend their final moments on earth and her film is a transcendent meditation on faith, love and hope.
Goldfinch is currently writing her first feature, which I eagerly anticipate, and you can WATCH RED ROVER HERE.