Tag

Stephen King Archives – FutureFemme

Watching Stanley Kubrick’s films through a feminist lens

By News

Did you know it was acclaimed director Stanley Kubrick’s birthday last month? The prolific filmmaker (who passed away in 1999) would have turned 90. To honor the occasion, the official Twitter page posted a tribute video made up exclusively of white male filmmakers fawning over the filmmaker’s genius (and their own).

Martin Scorsese stares straight into the camera as though he’s delivering a cult induction video and suggests Kubrick is something “you live by”. Christopher Nolan (a director known for “fridging” the female characters in many of his films) stated simply that Kubrick’s movies have a “very special place” in his heart.

Meanwhile, Simon Pegg simply reeled off even more white great male directors in his honoring of the late director, stating, “The likes of Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, and Martin Scorsese, and Francis Ford Coppola – those guys are the movie brats that shaped the contemporary movie industry but I think all of those guys would absolutely defer to Kubrick as being a huge influence.”

We’re obviously huge fans of the director’s work and there’s no doubt he helped to influence an insurmountable volume of independent and Hollywood movies – but he isn’t beyond reproach. Furthermore, tributes like this that only focus on the white male perspective of his oeuvre and influence do little to counter criticisms that Kubrick’s treatment of women during production and as characters in his films was (to put it politely) a little iffy.

It’s a criticism that was brought to mainstream attention when Stephen King (who has long and openly challenged Kubrick’s treatment of his novel The Shining) called Kubrick’s depiction of Wendy Torrance (Shelley DuVall) “one of the most misogynistic characters ever put on film” in an interview with the BBC. The horror writer reasoned that the character is “basically just there to scream and be stupid and that’s not the woman that I wrote about.”

It’s a difficult criticism to argue against. For as multi-layered and truly ingenious as The Shining may be as a film, Wendy is a shrill prop of a woman – a thing to swing an axe at. The character is further worsened by Kubrick’s merciless treatment of DuVall while directing her on set.

In the behind the scenes documentary of The Shining filmed by Kubrick’s daughter Vivian, we witness the abuses DuVall endured at the hands of the director – all in the name of enhancing Wendy’s insecurities. Such intense pressure was heaped onto DuVall that she notoriously suffered hair loss from the stress of it all and was found crying between takes.

The culmination of which is most evident in the iconic scene in which Wendy swings a baseball bat at a deranged Jack. Her hysteria is palpable and it’s also very real – it broke the World Record of the most takes ever shot for a scene with spoken dialogue at 127 takes. In the documentary, Kubrick can even be heard urging other crew members “don’t sympathise with Shelley” even though she’s stood right next to him. It’s just locker room talk, right fellas? Such jokes. Much funny.

Following the film’s release, DuVall opened up to film critic Roger Ebert that she essentially “had to cry 12 hours a day, all day long . . . nine months straight, five or six days a week.” She also sadly lamented that for all her hard work and suffering, she wasn’t recognized for her efforts, with critics failing “even to mention it, it seemed like. The reviews were all about Kubrick like I wasn’t there.”

It’s a telling quote and it perfectly summarizes some of the criticisms of Kubrick’s work when viewed through a feminist lens. In Lolita, Eyes Wide Shut, and A Clockwork Orange, women tend to take two forms – they’re either young sexual objects or they’re elder shrews.

The lusty nymphets who strut, seduce, and are sexually and rapaciously consumed provide a framing of a woman’s power being solely beholden to her youth and beauty. The older women of these movies tend to be subsequently rendered weak and powerless and pushed into the outer frame of shots.

As Danielle R. Pearce wrote in her essay “Kubrick, Misogyny & The Human Condition”, in Lolita, “severe contrasts can be seen between mother and daughter. Kubrick clearly places Lolita in the center of frame when she is featured. This is different to her mother, whom is consistently framed off center – in the periphery. Humbert is fixated on Lolita, however Charlotte is simply an annoyance to him.”

There’s obviously an argument to be made (especially considering the satirical nature of Lolita) that Kubrick is simply reflecting societal attitudes towards women. Particularly in regards to how young and beautiful women are given prominence across all corners of society while women beyond a particular age (even a goddess like Nicole Kidman) are pushed to the outer fringes.

The problem with that reading (no matter how true it may be in regards to his intentions) is that he never made a film that truly challenged the idea of women being anything more than victims, objects, or shrews. In Killer’s Kiss, the heroine is relegated to the subordinate role of a frightened dancer striving to escape her dangerous boss, while in Barry Lyndon the movie explores ideas surrounding toxic masculinity, but still depicts a cheery scoundrel of a protagonist who marries a woman for her money and has his merry way with their merry maids.

In Kubrick’s further masterpieces Dr. Strangelove, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Paths of Glory, and Full Metal Jacket, women are mostly absent from the narrative. Which, in all honesty, is fine – we’re happy to enjoy a film mostly free of a female presence than one where a woman has been awkwardly shoved in for the token representation. The point is that Kubrick’s vision was such an obstinately male one that it left absolutely no space for a single complex female character or perspective.

And you know what? That’s fine. Grab a spoon and eat your fill of it if that’s what you think is the marker of masterful filmmaking. However, it leaves a distasteful residue upon the history of Hollywood that Kubrick is still renowned as being one of the most influential directors of all time. Especially when a modern perspective on his legacy still only offers a male white championing on the impact he continues to have on modern filmmaking.

Following the release of Coralie Fargeat’s hard-hitting thriller 'Revenge', we’re taking a look at some of the best female revenge films from the past several decades. Load ‘em up, girls – it’s hunting time!

The most furious female revenge films that are best served cold

By News

Revenge is a dish best served with a side order of badass. Coralie Fargeat’s hard-hitting thriller Revenge dropped in theaters back in May, and for those of you who missed the hype, it was one of the buzziest films at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival, offering a fresh, bloody, and raw take on the rape-revenge narrative.

The film received rave reviews upon its release, with Variety describing the movie as “a tense, bloody, riveting cat-and-mouse game that embraces the slick tracking shots and can-you-top-this nastiness that’s come to define the French horror brand.” In the wake of its release, we’re taking a look at some of the best female revenge films from the past several decades. Load ‘em up, girls – it’s hunting time!

Hard Candy (2005)

Never underestimate the power of a teenage girl. This crime thriller plays out what most people wish upon the lurkers who groom young girls on the internet, after a fourteen-year-old female vigilante traps and tortures a man whom she suspects of being a sexual predator. It’s brutal, savage, and completely satisfying to watch.

Elle (2016)

Paul Verhoeven’s brazenly brutal thriller sees a stunning performance from Isabelle Huppert (Souvenir) as a successful businesswoman who turns the table on her attacker and gets caught up in a game of cat & mouse as she tracks down the unknown man who raped her. This film is more than just a tale of revenge, tackling the protagonist’s psychological trauma with tact and complexity.

Ms. 45 (1981)

Back in 1981 Abel Ferrara (Bad Lieutenant) unleashed his shocking crime thriller into the cinematic realm, about a timid and mute seamstress who goes insane after being attacked and raped twice in one day. Filled with rage and vengeance, she takes to the streets of New York and takes down men with the titular .45 caliber pistol. While some might argue it borders on the exploitative, Ms. 45 is more enjoyable than it has any right to be and beneath the provocative scenes, the film contains a surprising level of intention and purpose.

Bedevilled (2010)

If there’s one thing we know, it’s that South Korea knows how to do a vengeance film. In Jang Cheol-soo’s directorial debut, the protagonist Kim (Seo Young-hee) is tortured and molested by her husband and his brother and berated by her aunt and the village elders. The build up is intense, making the breaking point all that more satisfying as Kim takes bloody revenge on everyone who wronged her.

Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003)

You can’t make a female vengeance list without giving Kill Bill a mention. Uma Thurman (Pulp Fiction) is 100% badass in Quentin Tarantino’s empowering tribute to Japanese genre films, and since there are too many best-bits to mention, instead we thought we’d crack on the 5,6,7,8s and have a boogie!

M.F.A. (2017)

Natalia Leite’s SXSW hit gives an unrelenting tale of rape denial, seeing Francesca Eastwood (True Crime) as an art student who is sexually assaulted at a party. After receiving no support from her college to find justice and cope with her psychological trauma, she decides to take matters into her own hands and thus, an unlikely vigilante is born.

Carrie (1976)

As high-school misfits, we all probably fantasized about taking revenge on the douchey a-holes at school. Luckily we had Carrie, so we could enjoy such fantasies without winding up in jail. Based on Stephen King’s 1974 novel of the same name, Brian De Palma’s supernatural horror centers on a girl who starts out as a shy, sheltered teen and winds up a murderous prom freak who uses her telekinetic powers to unleash pain and suffering amongst the a-holes who bullied her.

The Skin I Live In (2011)

Pedro Almodóvar’s psychological thriller about a plastic surgeon and his guinea pig “patient” is both shocking and entertaining, weaving together a complex and unpredictable story that breaks the conventions of the rape-revenge narrative, showing how obsession with seeking vengeance can either drive a person to insanity or act as a justification tool for the actions a person takes (or both).

Baise Moi (2000)

In what might be one of the most controversial films of the 21st century, directors Virginie Despentes & Coralie Trinh Thi were completely unapologetic about their portrayal of rape, sex, and violence in their New French Extremity crime thriller. Featuring porn performers in leading roles acting out real-life sex scenes, the story follows two women who embark on a relentless crime spree after being gang raped. This one’s not for the faint-hearted.

Sympathy for Lady Vengeance (2005)

As the third installment in Park Chan-wook’s Vengeance Trilogy, Geum-ja Lee (Yeong-ae Lee) carries out an intricate and meticulously planned mission to take revenge on the paedophile murderer who stole years of her life, not just on behalf of herself, but on behalf of the parents whose lives he ruined. With jet-black humor and artistic finesse, Sympathy for Lady Vengeance is a true cinematic masterpiece.

I Spit on Your Grave (1978)

The reigning queen of female vengeance films, Meir Zarchi’s original I Spit on Your Grave (the less said about the 2010 remake, the better) centers on an aspiring writer who is brutally gang-raped before systematically hunting down her attackers to seek revenge. For most people vengeance is a dish best served cold – in the case of Jennifer (Camille Keaton), it’s served brutal, bloody, and totally unrelenting.