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Difference: On Representation and Sexuality

March 03 – April 21, 1985


Monday, February 11, 1985, 8:00 pm – Monday, March 11, 1985, 12:00 am

Film Series

organized with University of Chicago Doc Films

Location: The Renaissance Society
Admission: free

This series addresses the issue of gender in artistic representation, exploring the differences between cultural notions of sexualtiy and the portrayal of these differences. This series is a study of the cultural formation of sexuality under patriarchy. These films are presented with the belief that women are uniquely equipped to present views of their own roles in society.

February 11, 8:00 pm
India Song, directed by Marguerite Duras
Duras, the great French writer best known for her sensous script for Hiroshima Mon Amour, began directing films in the mid-sixties. Her films invariably concentrate on character and atmosphere over camera technique, and India Song is no exception. The oppressed wife of a French ambassador to India in the thirties attempts to alleviate her loneliness through a series of love affairs. The films stars Delphine Seyrig. The emphasis is on the feeling of isolation among the whole diplomatic community, focusing on the woman's desperation in a land she hates.

February 18, 8:00 pm
Committed, directed by Sheila McLaughlin and Lynn Tillmann
Committed tells of Frances Farmer, a Hollywood star whose left-wing views led to her incarceration in a state mental hospital, where she was brutalized and finally lobotomized. Committed focuses on the social and political climate of America in the thirties and forties, with an empahsis on the increasing stature of psychiatry in American life. Rather than presenting Farmer as pure victim, directors McLaughlin (who also plays the lead) and Tillmann give the actress intelligence and motivation. "The complete antidote to the Hollywood version(Frances). This is impressive filmmaking." Derek Malcolm in Film Guardian

February 25, 9:00 pm
Sigmund Freud's Dora, directed by Anthony McCall, Claire Pajaczkowska, Andrew Tyndall, and Jane Weinstock
Sigmund Freud's Dora is an attempt to rethink some of the pyschoanalytic notions associated with film and feminism. Stylistically self-conscious, this film accentuates its points with new-wave visuals: one of the characters is a pair of talking lips shot in extreme close-up. In his four dialogues with Dora, Freud attempts to establish that her sexuality is linked to a phallocentric culture. Each dialogue is prefaced by media images (television ads, porn clips) that explore the roles of women in contemporary society.

March 4, 9:00 pm
The Riddles of the Sphinx, directed by Laura Mulvey and Peter Wollen
Typically, feminist theory defines the mother as a repressed figure, while her daughter is the self-conscious woman trying to overcome her position. Riddles was the first feminist film to deal with the mother-daughter relationship from the mother's point of view, with the mother becoming aware of her position in culture. The directors use an avant-garde cinematic style (complete with 360 degree pans designed to discourage lingering gazes at the heroine while displaying the beauty of the visual world and the physicality of the heroine's surroundings) to help define the theoretical and intellectual issues within the story.

March 11, 8:00 pm
Empty Suitcases and Exchanges, directed by Bette Gordon
The films of Bette Gordon have been described as "punk feminist exorcism" (Village Voice). Empty Suitcases is a prime example. A woman photographer, unable to decide where to live, travels between Chicgo and New York. Her constant moving about exposes her to various types of politics, art, and even terrorism. The narrative style of the film is deliberately disjointed. Different actresses play the lead in different scenes, and no one seems to notice or care. Powerful sequences abound: a militant New Wave fashion show in which the models photograph themselves; an expressionless white woman lip-synching along to Billy Holliday; a scene where Gordon relates a dream, only to be drowned out by the Talking Heads singing Psycho Killer; and violent revenge fantasies against her (ex?) lover. "Empty Suitcases" is...very finely shot and brilliantly edited." (Artforum)
Exchanges investigates the mechanisms by which meaning is produced in film, through the interaction of the process of construction of a text and the social context which determines and is represented by that text. The film also raises the question of female sexuality in attempting to represent women as erotic sexual beings outside the positions assigned to them by male power and fantasy. Of particular note is a sequence in wihich two women exchange clothes; Gordon's emphasis on the depersonalization of the women is used to raise the question of the relationship between eroticism and feminism.


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