Welcome back to Split Decision! Each week, we pose a question to our staff of knowledgable and passionate film geeks and share the responses! We may never know if it is legal to park in the center of Broad Street, but we’ll answer movie questions all day long. Chime in on Twitter, Facebook, or in the comments below!
This week’s question:
What is your favorite film directed by a woman?
I’m going to have to go with Penny Marshall on this one. Her films were a big part of my adolescence namely, A League of Their Own, Big, and Riding in Cars with Boys. If I had to choose one, I guess it’s Big. I’ve seen this movie so many times and yet when it used to play on repeat on TV I would stop whatever I was doing to watch it (ditto A League of Their Own). This is a controversial opinion I’m sure, but I do believe that this is Tom Hank’s best role. An adult playing a child is tough without going full on parody, and under Marshall’s careful eye, Hank’s nails it perfectly.
On of my favorite scenes takes place when Josh (Hanks) first goes to the city after becoming an adult. He’s staying in a seedy motel and after he barricades himself in his room he becomes frightened both at the loud yelling coming from the hallway in a language he can’t understand and the sounds of gunshots from the streets. It plays as comical at first, but we’re soon taken over with the same uncomfortable fear as Josh. The camera never leaves his face as the foreignness of his situation begins to hit. The camera stays with him as he slowly backs away from the door, fiddles with his shirt, lips quivering as the first of many tears for the night start to slowly come to the surface. The scene fades to black as Josh slowly whimpers under the weight of all that’s around him. I love it because of Marshall’s patience in capturing the slow progression of emotion from Hank’s performance. We’re 12 again, right there in that room, remembering a time we felt alone and scared. Also the ending, walking down the street when Josh turns back to a kid again. That sequence just tugs at your heartstrings. – Jill Malcolm
Joan Micklin Silver’s 1979 film, Chilly Scenes of Winter (aka Head Over Heels) played endless on cable, when I was 12. It is not exaggerating to say that his film is responsible for my love of cinema, my career as a film writer, and my obsession with Ann Beattie (author of the source novel). It is a wryly comic and bittersweet romantic drama about a young man (John Heard) trying to win back the woman he loves (Mary Beth Hurt). There are ace supporting turns by Peter Riegert and Gloria Grahame, and dialogue I continue to quote to this day. The film was recut after its initial release as Head Over Heels and re-released later, under the original source novel’s title, with a different (and better) ending. Chilly Scenes of Winter made me appreciate smart, funny, sensitive character-driven films while everyone else was watching Star Wars and Superman. I love much of Silver’s work from that era, including Between the Lines (also starring Heard) and Hester Street. This film prompted me to seek out female filmmakers because there were far too few of them back in the late 1970s, and while the numbers have increased, we still need more women-directed movies.–Gary M. Kramer
A recent pick, I know, but Julia Ducournau’s cannibal coming of age thriller RAW is a cinematic force to be reckoned with. Not only is Ducournau’s feature length debut impressive as the work of a first-time filmmaker, but it stands out amongst a sea of genre films as one of the best. RAW will undoubtedly endure the test of time, and as more eyes fall upon this gruesome, hilarious piece of horror, its thematic groundwork — identity, physical maturity, the sacrifice of the individual to fit in with the group — will resonate. Despite combining cannibal violence with deeply effective body horror, there’s something about Ducournau’s style that makes RAW broadly appealing without feeling safe. And the way that the final shot redefines the entire film pretty much demands a second viewing. And a third. And then you’ll want to show it to people just to watch them watch it.
This is a particularly difficult category from which to choose just one, and my answer will likely change by the time I finish writing this, but here goes. My favorite film directed by a woman has to be Les rendez-vous d’Anna (1978), written and directed by the iconic Chantal Akerman. In this stunningly-filmed character study, we follow the despondent Anna (Aurore Clément) as she travels through Europe to promote her new film. Along the way she encounters a myriad of different people, all of whom express a profoundly personal revelation to her. Although Anna always listens, these brief meetings only highlight the deep detachment she has from the world, and the people, around her. She has encounters with men, women, old lovers, and family, though Anna seems to remain within the same emotional space regardless of these different relationships. This film is so poignant, so beautiful, and despite its isolated subject and atmosphere, Les rendez-vous d’Anna is filled with nuanced emotion–Catherine Haas
I have to pick Sofia Coppola’s Lost In Translation. Has there ever been a more relatable or moving depiction of loneliness? The most depressing kind of loneliness only comes when you are surrounded by other people who seem to be connecting in ways that you aren’t capable of, so stranding the two leads in Japan embeds these feeling deep within the fabric of the film. And in their isolation, the two lead characters are well contrasted. Bill Murray’s character wants to disengage with the world, remaining in the familiar decor of the hotel, while Scarlett Johansson’s character desperately wants to throw herself into busyness, running from her dying relationship. There’s layers and layers of depth to this film, and each time I see it I find new things to discover. —Ryan Silberstein
Author: Ryan Silberstein
Ryan spends his days at a company named one of the best to work for in the Philadelphia area, and his nights
as a mysterious caped vigilante saving his city from the disease that is crime watching movies. He lives on a diet consisting of film, comic books, experimental beer, black coffee, and those big metal historical markers around town. Follow him on Twitter and Letterboxd.