April 23, 2017

Three Quick Takes from Taylor Hanley at the Wisconsin Film Festival

Dispatch: Wisconsin Film Festival

Taylor Hanley offers her thoughts on three of this year’s Wisconsin Film Festival selections.

GIRLHOODGirlhood | Céline Sciamma | France| 2014 | 112 min

I planned to start out the Wisconsin Film Festival by seeing White God, because I love attempts to reconstruct classic stories, and also because of the picture in the film guide with tons of running dogs. Unfortunately, White Dog could not be played and instead they showed Girlhood.

Girlhood was okay. I am sure there is an audience out there that would love this movie, but by the number of people who left before Girlhood started, that audience is not the same as White God’s. The film is well made, particularly in its cinematography and its point of view. And the use of music is also enjoyable, especially in a somewhat experimental scene with the girls and a Rhianna song.

At first, the story starts out like an unfunny Mean Girls where the main character, Marieme, joins a clique and they go to the mall and make fun of other girls. But the story did not follow the typical path and instead highlighted the positive aspects of forming strong female bonds. This, along with the reversal of gender roles—women playing football and fighting—was really enjoyable.

Despite this unique presentation, and despite taking place in France, I felt that the story was overplayed. I don’t like watching depictions of my generation, perhaps because I am tired of the usual portrayal of us as selfie-taking, booby-shaking, and directionless. Or because I do see it everyday. And though the use of music was appropriate and effective, I am sad that the popular music of today sucks so much. There is an audience out there for this film, but that audience probably relates to the characters’ situations and feelings. I didn’t.

The Keeping Room Movie (2)The Keeping Room | Daniel Barber | USA | 2014 | 95 min

The first minutes of The Keeping Room are intense: barking, gun shots, murder, and suggested rape. Starting this way made the whole audience shift to the edge of their seat and stay there, tense, for the rest of the film. The intensity was going to return, but it wasn’t clear when.

The film was awesome—a great story with a complex and entertaining dynamic between the three main characters who took up most of the screen time. Two of the women are sisters whose father and brother have gone off to fight on the Confederate side of the Civil War, and the other is their help, Mad. The relationship between these women continuously changes while the power goes from one to the next. Their interactions depict a side of slavery that hasn’t been regularly shown, yet their dialogue and actions towards one another was so natural.

It was strange going from Girlhood directly to The Keeping Room, because the second film put Girlhood‘s problems into perspective. I can’t help but wonder if life at that time was hard no matter who you were.

dr.-caligari-1The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari | Robert Wiene | Germany | 1920 | 70 min

Saturday morning I woke up and saw The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari at the Capitol Theater. I couldn’t have asked for a better morning. The Capitol Theater is my favorite venue at the Film Festival, and I love any reason that allows me to go there. I really enjoyed the film; I know most film fans have seen it and know how good it is, but it was my first time seeing it. This was also the first time I have seen a silent film on a big screen, and being able to see this particular film with live organ accompaniment was an amazing opportunity. I was giddy the entire time.

I overheard someone say after the screening that The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari was ahead of its time. It was. The story was told with flashbacks, the acting is appropriately dramatic, and the thing that overwhelmingly stood out to me was the Dr. Seuss-like setting.Though thoroughly enjoyable, I would not have liked the film as much if I watched it at home on my small TV. It is fantastic that the Wisconsin Film Festival allows the audience to see films as they are meant to be seen.

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