Valentine’s Day: 50 Shades of everything but grey.

So, Fifty Shades of Grey is finally in the theatres. Excited? No? For all of you who want to watch something more meaningful this weekend, here is my pick of 50 films that are perfect for Valentine’s day (or for whenever you feel like watching something a bit more romantic).

  1. Brief Encounter (1945, dir. David Lean)
  2. In the Mood for Love (2000, dir. Wong Kar-Wai)
  3. Virgin Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors (2000, dir. Hong Sang-soo)
  4. Amour (2012, dir. Michael Haneke)
  5. City Lights (1931, dir. Charlie Chaplin)
  6. Breathless (1960, dir. Jean-Luc Godard)
  7. L’eclisse (1962, dir. Michelangelo Antonioni)
  8. Pierrot le fou (1965, dir. Jean-Luc Godard)
  9. Wings of Desire (1987, dir. Wim Wenders) – a romantic fantasy film about the invisible, immortal angels who populate Berlin, listen to the thoughts of human inhabitants and comfort those in distress. One of the angels (played by Bruno Gantz) falls in love with a lonely trapeze artist and chooses to become human. (Does this summary rings a bell? Of course it does. This film had a disastrous American remake by the name of City of Angels with Nicholas Cage and Meg Ryan in the main roles. The original is nothing like the remake though! Another amazing fact about the original version: there’s a scene with Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds performing From Her To Eternity.)
  10. Love Affair, or the Case of the Missing Switchboard Operator (1967, dir. Dušan Makavejev)
  11. Blue is the Warmest Colour (2013, dir. Abdellatif Kechiche)
  12. Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (1974, dir. Rainer Werner Fassbinder) – a love affair between 30-years old Moroccan migrant worker and a 60-years old widowed cleaning woman who are drawn together by their loneliness. One of Fassbinder’s most powerful films.
  13. Le Bonheur (1965, dir. Agnes Varda)
  14. Chungking Express (1994, dir. Wong Kar-Wai)
  15. In the Realm of the Senses (1976, dir. Nagisa Oshima) – this one may not be for everybody. Then again, if you considered watching Fifty Shades of Gray sometime in the near future, this may be just what you need to watch tonight. A story about a dangerous mutual obsession between Sada Abe and Kichizo Ishida that generated a great deal of controversy during its release. The fact that it contains quite a lot of unsimulated sex scenes is just one of the reasons for that.
  16. Badlands (1973, dir. Terrence Malick) – two psychotic young lovers commit a murder and run away into the desert. Malick’s first feature-film and an all-time American cult classic. “Transcendent themes of love and death are fused with a pop-culture sensibility and played out against a midwestern background, which is breathtaking both in its sweep and in its banality.
  17. Casablanca (1942, dir. Michael Curtiz)
  18. Vertigo (1958, dir. Alfred Hitchcock)
  19. A Matter of Life and Death (1946, dir. Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger)
  20. Before Sunrise (1995, dir. Richard Linklater)
  21. Before Sunset (2004, dir. Richard Linklater)
  22. Before Midnight (2013, dir. Richard Linklater)
  23. The Shop Around the Corner (1940, dir. Ernst Lubitsch) – you’ve probably all seen You’ve Got Mail with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. This is the original version of the film (with James Stewart and Margaret Sullavan in the main roles) – and I probably don’t have to point out that Lubirsch’s version is way better than the remake. And I mean – way better.
  24. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004, dir. Michel Gondry)
  25. It Happened One Night (1934, dir. Frank Capra)
  26. A Streetcar Named Desire (1951, dir. Elia Kazan)
  27. Jules and Jim (1962, dir. François Truffaut)
  28. Singin’ in the Rain (1952, dir. Gene Kelly)
  29. Weekend (2011, dir. Andrew Haigh) – two men meet and fall in love in Nottingham, UK, only a week before one of them plans to leave the country. One of my favourite LGBT love stories.
  30. The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964, dir. Jaques Demy)
  31. A Room With a View (1985, dir. James Ivory)
  32. Loves of a Blonde (1965, dir. Miloš Forman)
  33. Annie Hall (1977, dir. Woody Allen)
  34. Manhattan (1979, dir. Woody Allen)
  35. The Graduate (1967, dir. Mike Nichols)
  36. Bonnie and Clyde (1967, dir. Arthur Penn)
  37. The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover (1989, dir. Peter Greenaway)
  38. Lost in Translation (2003, dir. Sofia Coppola)
  39. Certified Copy (2010, dir. Abbas Kiarostami)
  40. Harold and Maude (1971, dir. Hal Ashby) – one of the best romantic dark comedies I’ve ever seen. It’s about a young man Harold, who is deeply intrigued by death and (to his mother’s displeasure) fakes his own death on regular basis. After meeting a 79-year-old woman named Maude, the two form a close relationship that eventually transforms into something quite romantic. The two meet at the funeral and what follows is one of the most unusual and funny love stories of all time.
  41. Love Is Strange (2014, dir. Ira Sachs)
  42. Design for Living (1933, dir. Ernst Lubitsch) – this Hollywood’s pre-Code romantic comedy revolves around a woman who can’t decide between two men in her life – they both love her, she loves the both of them. The trio eventually decides to live together in a platonic relationship – which doesn’t exactly work out as they think it would, of course, and she ends up having an on-again, off-again relationship with both of them. (How could a film about a woman who refuses to be in a monogamous relationship be released in the early 30’s is beyond me.)
  43. She’s Gotta Have It (1986, dir. Spike Lee) – “A woman can be a sexual being and doesn’t have to belong to a man – and perhaps shouldn’t even wish for such a thing.” This is a modern-day Design for Living, set in an African-American community.
  44. The Philadelphia Story (1940, dir. George Cukor)
  45. The Apartment (1960, dir. Billy Wilder)
  46. Last Tango in Paris (1972, dir. Bernardo Bertolucci) – this one probably doesn’t need an introduction, does it?
  47. Only Lovers Left Alive (2013, dir. Jim Jarmusch)
  48. Maškarada (1971, dir. Boštjan Hladnik) – it’s about a love affair between a high-school athlete Luka and a happily married, but unfulfilled Dina. Slovenian cult film of the 70’s hippie generation that was extremely controversial (and consequently censured) upon its release. It was the first Slovenian film ever to be censured – and it remains the most controversial and erotic Slovenian film to this day.
  49. The Lovers (1958, dir. Louis Malle)
  50. Wild at Heart (1990, dir. David Lynch)

Edit: since it’s Valentine’s day again, but one year after I’ve made the original list, here’s 10 additional films:

  1. The Duke of Burgundy (2014, dir. Peter Strickland)
  2. The Lobster (2015, dir. Yorgos Lanthimos)
  3. Bright Star (2009, dir. Jane Campion)
  4. Beyond the Lights (2014, dir. Gina Prince-Bythewood)
  5. Open Hearts (2002, dir. Susanne Bier)
  6. Sidewalls (2011, dir. Gustavo Taretto)
  7. Away from Her (2007, dir. Sarah Polley)
  8. Mansfield Park (1999, dir. Patricia Rozema)
  9. Show Me Love (1998, dir. Lukas Moodysson)
  10. Obvious Child (2014, dir Gillian Robespierre)

A Year of Female Filmmakers

Ever since a shocking and utterly disappointing percentage of last year’s woman directed films came out at Indiewire at the beginning of the year, I felt it was necessary for me to write a Female Filmmakers Appreciation Post. However, the fact that Hollywood’s even more gender-biased than I ever dared to assume, inspired me to start A Year of Female Filmmakers, where I’ll try to watch as many female directed and/or written films in 2015 as possible (I came to the realization that I actually haven’t seen many of them and I’m also pretty certain that at least 98% of the films I watch every year are written and directed by men). There’s a list of films created by women below that will be updated each month until the end of the year.

The fact that only 7% of highest grossing films from 2014 were directed by women is perplexing by itself (which means that only 7% of the films audiences paid to see were made by women; this, however, doesn’t mean that women don’t make good films, but that most of their films don’t get promoted enough to get a wider audience. If more people would be aware of their options, it’s quite possible the percentage would be a lot different) – but when I looked deeper into the statistics I realized the percentage actually went down from 1998, when women directed 9% of the highest grossing films. How is it possible that there’s an even bigger gender gap in contemporary Hollywood than there was in the late 90’s? And why aren’t the numbers almost no better when we look at independent films (in 2014, only 10% of indie films were directed by women)?

Here are the numbers from the annual study of women’s behind the scenes employment by the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film:

In 2014, women comprised 17% of all directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors, and cinematographers working on the top 250 (domestic) grossing films. Women fared best as producers (23%), followed by executive producers (19%), editors (18%), writers (11%), directors (7%), and cinematographers (5%).

And if we look at the percentages of women’s racial representations on screen, we get an even more outraging result:

In 2014, 73% of all female characters were Caucasian, followed by African American (14%), Latina (5%), Asian (3%), other worldly (3%), and other (2%).

The fact that there’s the exact same chance of seeing a female Alien on screen as it is of seeing a female Asian character is more than worrisome. It would also be interesting to see how many of those 5% female Latina played some rich Caucasian family’s housemaid and how many of female African-Americans played a slave in a historical drama.

While trying to come to the conclusion of why there’s still so few women writers and directors in the industry, I came across so many articles addressing the issue (and citing some lame excuses for it at the same time), that my head almost exploded: men supposedly make better films than women, women don’t have the right education (a look at the number of women enrolled in film universities immediately rebuts this claim; but sadly most of them never make it into the movie business; TV on the other hand, is much less gender-biased), they can’t write characters the male audience would like and care about (but men can write their Manic Pixie Dream Girl-type of characters and women are supposed to be okay with it?), they’re not tough enough to survive in the movie business (they’re supposedly not so good at negotiating with producers. I have a feeling that there’s a whole different reason behind this claim though: most of the producers are men and they prefer to finance films written or directed by men. It’s not so much that women are bad at negotiating as it is that men are unwilling to negotiate with them), they don’t have time to travel and direct films on location because they’re wives and mothers (sexist much? Film directors are husbands and fathers as well – why should women’s personal life be any more important than men’s?). I could go on with the stupid excuses that the media (and male-dominated Hollywood studios) make about why the movie business employs so few women. They’re all bullshit. Women make great films (there’s a list below where you can pick a female written or directed film and judge for yourself). As Jill Soloway (creator of the groundbreaking Amazon TV series Transparent) perfectly summed it up in her interview for The Hollywood Reporter:

We’re not trying to be as good as men. We’re trying to create something that is specifically influenced by our femaleness. And that has a feeling that can’t be replicated by anybody except for us. There are so many things that are cool about not just women but the feminine or the feminine energy — feminine energy as collaboration instead of competition. (Soloway 2015)

I will try to review as many of the films I’ll see over the year as possible –  and I will write a more conclusive review of my Female Filmmakers Year at the beginning of 2016. Meanwhile; feel free to drop by every few months to see how my list is expanding or to recommend me a woman written/directed film that you like.


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