#52FilmsByWomen Blog

  • Film 3 of 52: The Blue Light by Leni Riefenstahl

    The Blue Light, or Das blue Licht, is a film written and directed by Leni Riefenstahl. If her name sounds familiar, it is because Riefenstahl was one of Hitler’s favorite directors. During the mid to the late 1930s, she directed Triumph of Will and Olympia, arguably two of the most innovative propaganda films ever made.

    To be honest, I was not sure what to expect with this film, but the cinematography is stunning. The Blue Light is based on a peasant legend from the Austrian and Italian Alps. Junta, played by Riefenstahl, is thought to be a witch by the village in the valley of the Crystal Mountain. They believe she seduces the young men of the village and lures them up the mountain only to let them fall to their deaths. As the film progresses, it becomes clear Junta is an innocent and mystical character. The true monsters are the villagers themselves.

    The cut I watched said it included the original soundtrack, which sounded more like ambient grunge than an actual soundtrack from the 1930s. I found this clip and it appears to be from the re-released 1951 version of the film. It is far more grand and appealing.

    You might have noticed I spent more time on this entry. As an artist myself, it is hard for me to wrestle with the morals of Leni Riefenstahl, but at the same time she has greatly influenced modern filmmaking and should be given due credit for her work.

    Content that matters:
    Explaining History: Leni Riefenstahl
    Fascinating Fascism by Susan Sontag
    Wikipedia entry regarding the life of Leni Riefenstahl

    Click here for a full list of films I will be watching and illustrating.

  • Film 2 of 52: Wings by Larisa Shepitko

    Wings, or Крылья, is Larisa Shepitko's first feature film. It is a 1966 black-and-white film from Soviet Russia, but the plot is about a World War II female fighter pilot. I find it fascinating that Shepitko was able to make a film about a female fighter pilot considering the political climate in Russia, but during the 60s they were a little more free to experiment. This film is basically a character study about how Nadezhda Petrukhina is living a quiet and boring life, which she, in some ways, finds disappointing compared to her former glory days as a pilot. The film features a beautiful musical score, and Maya Bulgakovа, the actress who plays Nadezha, is amazing. It took me a few days to finish this film in its entirety. I'm not sure if it was because of the pacing or that I rarerly watch Russian films, but I did find it to be very beautiful. 

    Content that matters:
    A Year With Women: Larisa Shepitko's Wings
    The Eclipse Viewer Podcast - Episode 3
    A Clip from Wings

    Click here for a full list of films I will be watching and illustrating.

  • Film 1 of 52: Cléo de 5 à 7 by Agnès Varda

    Film one on my list is directed by Agnès Varda and is one of my favorites from the age of French New Wave Cinema. It's a fantastic portrait of Paris in the 1960s as well. Cléo is a French singer who is awaiting biopsy results. This film follows her from 5 to 7 p.m. (actually 6:30 but who's counting?). In fact, you could start watching this film at 5:00 p.m. and follow along in real time. Cléo is somewhat vain but a beautiful character who learns that life is more than pop songs and fancy hats. Life consists of embracing yourself, flaws and all.

    Content that matters:
    Sarah Gadon on Clèo from 5 to 7
    LSU film students meet and interview Agnès in her studio in Paris
    Agnès Varda in Los Angeles

    Click here for a full list of films I will be watching and illustrating.

    My favorite parts:

    Jean-Luc Godard, French New Wave Director, makes an appearance in the silent film within the movie (above).

    The most honest we ever see Cléo is when she is singing "Sans Toi."

    One of my favorite scenes is when Cléo's songwriting friends come over for rehearsal. This shot in particular reiterates everything about the film.

    The opening scene is in color, and the tarot cards act as an allegory for life. Varda states,"The prologue takes place in a fortune-teller’s den, a traditional, classical interior filled with small objects, clocks, and more. I wanted to make a very violent sequence that confronts the film with its contrast."