Guide to political cinema – VI



A selection of films about the women's march, indicating the platform on which they are available

Prototypes and patterns

the blue angel (1930) – director: Josef Von Sternberg. Starring Marlene Dietrich, who in the following decades would embody the vampire, that is, the femme fatale, whom no man could resist. Owner of a strong personality and remarkable presence, she entered the imagination when she made this film, even before leaving Germany and conquering Hollywood, living one of them, which seduced and ruined a peaceful professor. Marked by the aesthetics of German Expressionism, it is a classic. YOUTUBE

Ninotchka (1939) – director: Ernst Lubitsch. Greta Garbo lives the People's Commissar, Soviet and asexual, an inexorable communist, who goes on a revolutionary mission to Paris, where she ends up having contact with the seductions of the decadent West. Fun comedy, the work of a master. Greta Garbo would play many other roles as a strong woman and owner of her nose, including those of Ana Karenina e Queen Christina. the screenwriter of Ninotchka is Billy Wilder, who would also be the screenwriter of another film showing an extraordinary woman: Fire ball, with Barbara Stanwick. From now on, he would be a director with a brilliant career. CINEMALIVER. NET

Adam's Rib (1949) – director: George Cukor. The 1940s, when women replaced the men engaged in World War II, saw the emergence of the “new women”, professional and independent. But the interregnum does not last, and when the men return and resume their jobs, they return to the kitchen. In cinema, there are many comedies, generally starring Katharine Hepburn or Barbara Stanwick or Rosalind Russell, in which women, in addition to pursuing a career, shower men with intelligence and the art of living.

Famous for being sympathetic to women, George Cukor would make 10 films in partnership with Katharine Hepburn, who was autonomous and vibrant in real life too. In Adam's Rib, the protagonist and her husband advocate the same cause in court, one on the defense and the other on the prosecution. Great fun, really masterful. After this phase, women in prominent positions are scarce again, and it is only possible to pinpoint one or another film, before the new wave of recent years.

All That Heaven Allows (1955) – right: Douglas Sirk, another director of films sympathetic to women, who stages a romance between a widow and her socially inferior and younger gardener. The grown children interfere and end the relationship. The scene in which the children present their mother with the great novelty of the time is unforgettable, announced as the greatest ally in the fight against loneliness: a TV set. The mother's disenchanted gaze is reflected on the device's screen. But she has the courage to face blackmail and disapproval, not only in the family but also in the community, and resumes the relationship. HBO

Modesty Blaise (1966), with Monica Vitti and Barbarella (1968), with Jane Fonda. These autarkic and combat women appear, true Warrior Maidens. They are spies, with great missions, running extraordinary dangers and enduring extreme trials. These libertarian heroines already herald the second wave of feminism, which would soon explode. The movies are funny, irreverent, put women up there; in addition, they are visually beautiful and sophisticated. Neither of the two is Hollywood: the first is English, directed by Joseph Losey, who took refuge in England to escape McCarthyist persecution, and the second, French, directed by Roger Vadim. Seen today, they retain all their excellent qualities. YOUTUBE and TELECINEPLAY

Baghdad Coffee (1987) – director: Percy Adlon. German film. How an oppressed woman conquers her freedom. In the middle of the Arizona desert, after a fight, a middle-aged German tourist gets out of her car and watches her husband drive away. She stays there, at Bagdá Café, and, silent and discreet, adapts to the eccentric regulars: few, as the Café is in the middle of the desert. One of the film's trump cards is transforming the stereotypical villain Jack Palance (specialist in roles like Attila the Hun etc.) into a delicate painter who falls in love with her and transfigures her – chubby and naked – into a Botero. GLORIA.TV, YOUTUBE

Thelma and Louise (1991) – director: Ridley Scott. The friendship and attempt at evasion of two women from the countryside, a waitress and a housewife. We see the two moving forward in sisterhood, in mutual defense, as they flee and are pursued by growing repressive forces, including the FBI, who don't understand a thing about what's going on. It has become a classic. GOOGLEPLAY

Orlando - The Immortal Woman (1992), dir.: Sally Potter. Filming of the famous novel by Virginia Woolf, in which the protagonist, in a plot that spans 400 years, is sometimes a woman and sometimes a man. Beautiful film, sumptuous indeed, which takes place in slow scenes, full of majesty. Tilda Swinton, a great actress, is treated like a Renaissance Madonna, thanks to her makeup and lighting, reminiscent of Botticelli and Leonardo da Vinci. And above all in the premonition of a smile that does not bloom, recalling La Gioconda, alias Mona Lisa. Decidedly feminist, she recognizes Virginia Woolf as a precursor. OLINK TV, TELECINEPLAY

The Unworthy Old Lady (1965) – director: René Allio. French. The script's source text is by Bertolt Brecht. A widowed old woman after a lifetime devoted to domestic servitude. To the scandal of her children, she decides to live life, alone, in her modest measure: going to the cinema, drinking in bars, attending political meetings, travelling. Debut film by an unknown, snatched the grand prize at the International Film Festival in Rio de Janeiro.

teach me how to live (1971) – director: Hal Ashby. Another unworthy old lady. It draws its grace from the contrast between an elderly woman endowed with great joy in life and a suicidal young man, who learns to value existence with her. YOUTUBE

Stars Beyond Time (2016) – director: Theodore Melfi. The film shows three scientists – women and black – who did all the basic calculation work for NASA's space race and who were never recognized, the glory going to the American astronauts, all men and white. Not to mention that the second person to circle the Earth in a solo flight was a woman, the Russian Valentina Tereshkova, in 1963, shortly after the pioneer Gagarin, and well before Neil Armstrong stepped on the Moon. TELECINEPLAY, NOW, GOOGLEPLAY, YOUTUBE

Conquest of rights

The suffragettes (2015) – director: Sarah Gavron. We cannot forget the beginning of the feminist movement at the turn of the 19th-20th century, when the great cause was the vote for women – hence the name of the movement. Women who claimed the mere right to vote in free and democratic elections were mocked, beaten, arrested. And when they went on a hunger strike, an ignominy, they were force-fed through throat tubes. It would still take a while to obtain the right to vote: 1920 in the United States, 1934 in Brazil, 1944 in France. And it seems like a lie: in Switzerland only in 1971. GOOGLEPLAY, YOUTUBE

Revolution in Dagenham (2010) – director: Nigel Cole. In 1968, 172 women out of 40 Ford workers in England went on strike for equal pay. Gathered by the union (“divided forces”, etc.), by politicians and threatened by the president of Ford, they went ahead and ended up winning the cause, which became the Equal Wages Act in 1970. Strictly historic. YOUTUBE

Suprema (2018) – director: Mimi Leder. Fiction narrating the life of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a judge (a rare thing…) in that den of sexists that is the US Supreme Court. Her trajectory from the first cause and her firmness in fighting for the unconstitutionality of everything that harmed women. Modest and not at all famous. Like Simone de Beauvoir, it was only in her old age that she would be considered a precursor and an icon of the feminist cause. HBO, YOUTUBE

The Women of Flint (2017) – director: Bruce Beresford. How simple housewives in the small town of Flint, Michigan, carried out a campaign to denounce and repair lead contamination in tap water, about which the authorities did not give a damn. Also based on real facts it is Erin Brockovich – A Woman of Talent (2000 – dir.: Steven Soderbergh), in which a single mother of three investigates and leads a movement to denounce contaminated water. NOW, GLOBOPLAY, YOUTUBE

The Lei (2014) – director: Christian Faure. The life of Simone Veil, the Minister of Health who faced the French right wing and the Catholic Church until she got approval for the Abortion Law (1975), a pioneer in the world, which decriminalized abortion in France. Discreet and reserved, with unbreakable ethics, Simone Veil was a survivor of Auschwitz and led other causes of oppressed people, such as political prisoners and immigrants. She would later be the first president of the newly created European Union, whose consolidation owed much to her. A rare honor, it now rests in the Panthéon. This is a fiction film, but there are also beautiful documentaries, such as Simone Veil, la loi d'une femme (2007), dir.: Caroline Huppert, or Simone Veil, une histoire française (2004), director: David Teboul. YOUTUBE

Artemisia (1997) – director: Agnès Merlet. Romanticized biography of Artemisia Gentileschi, a great painter of the Italian Baroque, who had several of her paintings attributed to male authors. His fight for recognition and for imposing himself as head of the studio. Then, its ostracism for two hundred years and the recent recovery of its importance in the history of painting. YOUTUBE

Malala (2005) – director: Davis Guggenheim. It tells the story of Pakistani teenager Malala, leader of the demand for schooling for girls in her country. That's why the Taliban shot her in the head: she almost died, underwent numerous surgeries, but remained firm in her fight. YOUTUBE

My name is Greta (2020) – director: Nathan Grossman. The Swedish Greta Thunberg, 16 years old and suffering from Asperger's Syndrome, started a vigil in front of the Swedish Parliament, demanding actions against global warming. She sparked a movement that spread to teenagers around the world. National Geographic.

Free Angela Davis (2011) – director: Shola Davis. Documentary about the trajectory of the great North American black activist and intellectual, student of Herbert Marcuse. Her life is shown from the times of the Black Power, when she was arrested and prosecuted for an attack, through her activism in the black cause and the denouncement of prison conditions, until the present day. NOW, TAMANDUA, GOOGLEPLAY, YOUTUBE

Rosa Luxemburg (1986) – director: Margarethe von Trotta. Biography of the Marxist thinker Rosa Luxemburgo, or Rose the Red, as she was known. Socialist and pacifist, she would found, alongside Karl Liebknecht and other companions, the Spartakus League, the embryo of the future German Communist Party. She tried in every way to prevent the outbreak of the First World War. She would die assassinated, in Berlin. TELECINEPLAY, YOUTUBE

Frida – Naturaleza Viva (1983) – director: Paul Leduc. Mexican fiction about the life of Frida Kahlo, the great Mexican painter who, with unique originality, created a kind of pictorial autobiography throughout her life, putting her suffering body on canvas, offering mutilation, viscera, open veins, blood. An outstanding life, an outstanding art. The merit of Paul Leduc, also a Mexican director, was to dedicate himself to reproducing on the cinema screen the texture and colors of canvases with Frida's paints. YOUTUBE

*Walnice Nogueira Galvão is Professor Emeritus at FFLCH at USP. She is the author, among other books, of reading and rereading (Senac/Gold over blue).

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Originally published in the magazine Theory and debate.


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