Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
Cinema on the Edge: Female Directors
you think it is tough for women to get a fair shake in Hollywood, try breaking
into the business in Mainland China. Two young and jaded film school grads have
been stymied thus far, so they are making their own darned movie now. However,
their hybrid mockumentary will reveal more than they anticipated in Yang
Mingming’s Female Directors (clip here), which screens as
part of Cinema on the Edge, a retrospective tribute to the Beijing Independent
Film Festival now playing in New York at Anthology Film Archives.
though they are the compromised guardians of Mao’s leftist revolution, the
Party is rather puritanical when it comes to sex. It therefore takes all of ten
seconds to figure out why Female
Directors had to be produced outside the system. There is more “slut-shaming”
in its caustic forty-three minutes than in Amy Schumer’s sole film to-date,
repeatedly played ten times in a row. Of course, it is important to remember,
when Yang and her cohort Guo Yue make naughty jokes, they are actually running
real risks with the powers-that-be, whereas Schumer is hailed as the new Sarah
Silverman, until the next one comes along.
after Ah-ming and Yue Yue (their fictionalized personas) commence shooting
their DIY chronicle of creative unemployment, they discover they have both been
carrying on with the same married sugar daddy. Neither professes to feel much
for the wealthy little creep, yet they each clearly resent how the other has
allegedly cashed-in on the relationship. Actually, they use terms for this that
would be inappropriate for a family site. Will their friendship survive? Will
they finish the film? Will they confront the man they dub “Mr. Short?”
the running time, we will have these answers in short order, but one thing is
certain—they will not be welcomed into the filmmaking establishment anytime
soon. At one time, Yue Yue might have had a shot. She joined the Party during
her high school years, but was expelled for attending an Ingmar Bergman retrospective,
which is depressing in multiple ways.
by western standards, Female Directors’ dialogue
is unusually explicit, but the film never shows any actual whoopee-making and
very little skin. Compared to Ah-ming and Yue Yue, the Sex in the City characters sound like Amish women at a quilting circle.
Yang and Guo Yue are incredibly charismatic and acerbic, wielding their cutting
dialogue like machetes. They seem so believably messy and frazzled playing off
each other, the entire film feels uncomfortably real.
Regardless, Yang is critical of more than just double
standards and glass ceilings. The film is also disrespectful to most forms of
authority. As a result, the finished package is sly, tight, and surprisingly
refreshing, but absolutely not for kids. Recommended for fans of adult
meta-comedy, Female Directors screens
with Listening to Third Grandmother’s
Stories this Sunday (8/9) and Wednesday (8/12) as part of Cinema on the
Edge at Anthology Film Archives.
Labels: Chinese Cinema, Cinema on the Edge