Women have had a hard time breaking into directing both in the U.S. and across the world. In honor of the end of Women’s History Month, we decided to share our favorite pictures directed by women.
Joan: First Cow (2019)
If you were to name an A24 film from 2019 shot on a non-standard image ratio that focuses on an arguably homo-erotic relationship between two isolated men in 19th century America, you would probably answer The Lighthouse. And you would be right, but there is another film that meets these niche criteria and is just as good, and that is Kelly Reichardt’s First Cow. The film follows “Cookie,” a quiet cook and the antithesis to the aggressively masculine fur trappers that he works alongside with, and King-Lu, a chinese immigrant on the run after killing a man. Together they come up with a business scheme involving the titular cow and the plot takes its course from there. But what makes the film great for me is not its plot, but the way Reichardt allows the camera to linger on inconsequential characters to create the sense that there are countless other stories surrounding the main two characters. In this way the film suggests that everybody has a story worth telling, and that some of those stories have been buried underground and it is our duty to uncover them.
Laura: Booksmart (2019)
Despite Olivia Wilde’s questionable decisions with Don’t Worry Darling and ‘Miss Flo, I must admit Booksmart was directed beautifully. Booksmart tells the story of two best friends who have spent their whole high school careers with their noses in the books. After spending years looking down on what Molly (Beanie Feldstein) assumes as losers on the last day of senior year she learns that just like her they are also going to top colleges which makes her whole identity come crashing down. This leads to her and her best friend going on the adventure of a lifetime all in one night where they attempt to make up for all the years they spent missing out on a “typical” teenage experience. It has all the things you would expect and want from a teenage comedy: a pinch of stereotypes, a tablespoon of second hand-embarrassment, and a cup of comedy. And yet to everyone’s surprise it is not pretentiously political like every other recent teenage comedy. Olivia Wilde brings a unique perspective to the film aiming to teach everyone a lesson to not judge a book by its cover in what seems to be the least cheesy and most engaging way so far.
Marcos: Matrix: Resurrections (2021)
The Wachowski sisters (Lana and Lily) are best known for the Matrix films, reality-bending cyberpunk allegories based on ancient Hindu and Neoplatonic “simulation” concepts, which also incorporate John Woo’s and Jet Li’s Wing-Chun fighting choreography. These films’ complicated allegories also pushed the envelope in terms of trans-rights and representation. Matrix Resurrections is a really good example of a fakeout sequel that continued the original trilogy to mixed reviews in late 2021. It revolves around Trinity and Neo meeting again while simultaneously their past lives exist on a computer game from which they have to escape. I don’t find the latest film to be stale or repetitive. In Resurrections the artsy nostalgia is handled especially well within an inner working of the mise-en-scene as a recorded “virtual” matrix that makes sense for the characters witnessing it. The movie clearly was ahead of its time as it’s a deeply satirizing meta-commentary on the state of AI taking over industry as a whole.
Dr. Strycharski: Agnes Varda Vagabond (1985)
Although the piquaresque has long been a feature of US literature (Huck Finn, On the Road) and film (Easy Rider, Little Big Man, Forrest Gump), Europeans of course not only pioneered the form but have continued to produce some of its most notable examples. Enter Agnes Varda’s Vagabond, the story of the one time Paris secretary Mona’s (Sandrine Bonnaire) meanderings across the French countryside. Meticulously structured, the 1985 film holds up in its intimate portrait of a complicated young woman’s tragic trajectory as she lives through dangers and deprivations on the unsheltered margins of society. What makes this film work is Bonnaire’s Mona–brash, vulnerable, abused and abusive, a character whose deep imperfections only enhance the gut punch pathos of her story.