Thursday, March 08, 2007

Films for a Do-Nothing Week

There's nothing like watching a bunch of movies to fix the brain when you're feeling ill and overworked.

Double Dare

A documentary about two stuntwomen from two very different backgrounds: Jeanie, who used to double for Wonder Woman, and Zoe, who doubled for Xena. Jeanie is over sixty, well-respected in her field, classy, established, but thinking more and more about liposuction and becoming a "stunt coordinator." Zoe, on the other hand, is a young newcomer who doesn't quite know what she wants to do when Xena is cancelled. Who's going to set her on fire now?

The documentary follows the women as they pursue their own careers, face mounting rejection, and no doubt frequently annoy each other. A running theme is the marginalization of women in Hollywood, and ESPECIALLY in the stunt field...but the close-knit community of stuntpeople helps to smooth the problems a bit. It had never ocurred to me that the job of a stuntwoman is often more dangerous than it is for a stuntman; while the men usually double for actors who are a bit bulky or are well-clothed -- allowing the stuntman to wear padding -- women double for slim actresses with low-cut necklines and sleeveless outfits. No padding for them.

Even though I didn't find myself liking Zoe -- she's a bit crass and over-the-top -- it's amazing to see her land an audition for "Kill Bill" (thanks to help and support from Jeanie)...and to see her actually get the part of Uma Thurman's double. She's obviously good at what she does as she's apparently continued to do stunts in Hollywood and had a substantial acting role in one of Tarantino's recent films.

You go, stuntwomen!

Mid-'40s Experimental Films

When you rent a DVD of early experimental films you never know what you're going to get. Will you be forced to sit through an hour of meditations on trees, shadows, reflections, and the reflections of tree shadows on other trees? Usually.

The DVD of Maya Deren's films is wonderful. Mostly silent, starring herself, and made throughout the '40s, her movies are well-organized, thematic, and -- most important -- they seem to involve actual human beings. Her experiments with framing and film speed always come across as having a useful purpose.

I didn't know anything about her when I watched the films, but my first thought was: David Lynch saw these. They have that David Lynch "feeling" to them. It turns out there's a real connection, and she's viewed as one of the pioneers of "New American Cinema." Considering that she made these beautiful, slow, creepy films while Hollywood was spending millions on musical extravaganzas...well, her individuality is especially striking.

As a bonus, her husband's film "Private Life of a Cat" is almost impossibly cute. Except when you get to watch kittens squirming around in their half-eaten placentas.

I was less enchanted with the DVD of Kenneth Anger's films, however. His movies were distant and narcissistic, showing '40s Hollywood bohemia at its most self-indulgent. His love of opulence and chintz would make a cherub queasy. "Eaux d'Artifice" is an exception, mostly because of his camera trickery, and also because it isn't wrapped up with Anger's love of classic mythology and Alistair Crowley.

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