My Favorite Movies with Female Directors, Vol. 2

I made a list about this five years ago (late 2018, so little bit over five years), but while I still stand behind that list, what has changed is that I’ve seen a lot more movies from female directors. And I do mean a lot. Many of them older than that list, but since women have had trouble finding visibility in the industry, many of them were movies I had never heard of before. Meanwhile, many women have found opportunities and have been able to make great movies.

Part of the reason is that women are now allowed to share their opinions. Weird, I know. Sight & Sound made the conscious decision to add women to their pool of voters for their poll in 2022, so suddenly there’s plenty of movies made by women often about women on the list. Hopefully this trend continues.

Anyhow, in no specific order.

Jeanne Dielman 23, Quai du Commerce 1080 Bruxelles by Chantal Akerman (1975)

Okay, not really in no specific order, because this is the number one movie from the aforementioned Sight & Sound’s list. That received a wide spectrum of reactions from “the most boring thing I’ve seen” to “feminists ruin everything again” to “definitely belongs in the same category as Bicycle Thief, Citizen Kane and Vertigo” (the previous winners of the poll) to “what took so long”. Since I can’t really be in the last group, since I only saw the movie after it won, I’m in the second to last.

I’ve said many times that I can’t really recommend this to anyone, as it is a movie that can feel weird. It’s just very slow, but it does also draw you in, if you are willing to let it.

The Nightingale by Jennifer Kent (2018)

This is just a brutal movie about a brutal situation in Tasmania under the British rule. Since the main character is a woman, the brutality is also sexual.

It’s a revenge story, but not really. It manages to avoid the ultimate meaninglessness of revenge. Rapes also have a tendency to be used as defining character moments in situations, where they are not needed, but in this one it does work. At least in my opinion.

Portrait de la jeune fille en feu or Portrait of a Lady on Fire by Céline Sciamma (2019)

This shouldn’t need an explanation. It’s just great. My line on this has been that it almost feels as if Sciamma has been inventing a new feminine-oriented language for movies. This might just be me not knowing where her style comes from, but there is something beautiful in the safety of her tales.

Petite maman by Céline Sciamma (2021)

Hey, wait it’s the same director again. I mean, again, this is just a movie that feels safe. You know everything is going to be fine and you are cool with it. Also, the story and the idea behind the story is just heartwarming.

Nana by Valérie Massadian (2011)

This is pretty obscure movie. Sadly. I guess it’s because it’s pretty short and thus probably couldn’t get proper distribution. I first found this on a series about moviemaking called Women Make Film, which is kind of a basic film course, but all the examples are from movies directed by women. This is very economical movie. We mostly just watch. There isn’t much in the way of technical trickery, but that’s just something that makes the movie more effective.

Relic by Natalie Erika James (2020)

A mother and a daughter come to help find their mother/grandmother, who has been missing. She returns suddenly, but there seems to be something wrong with her. It’s a horror movie, but like any good horror movie, it has a heart and this time it’s about the ties that bind a family together despite problems.

Polite Society by Nida Manzoor (2023)

Currently my front-runner for the best movie of 2023 (with many movies, such as Poor Things) only opening later this month). It’s about a young British girl with a Pakistani background trying to stop her older sister’s marriage. There’s also a martial arts and a sci-fi element here. It’s just a wonderful feelgood story in the way only the Brits can do it, but with many elements that are also alien to me in equally wonderful ways.

Voskhozhdenie or The Ascent by Larisa Shepitko (1977)

Unlike all the previous movies on this list, this one actually has two male main characters. It’s about the WWII, where two Soviet partisans in Belarus are trying to find food for their group. It’s a war movie, where the reality of the situation is everpresent. The movie was almost banned until Shepitko’s husband connived to get a Belarusian official with a partisan background to watch it. That official then saved the movie from being shelved.

Sadly, Shepitko dies just a couple of years later at the age of 41.

W by Anna Eriksson (2022)

I’ve talked about this movie so much that I’m not going to say anything more here. You’re not going to like it anyhow, because you have taste, unlike me.

La mujer sin cabeza or The Headless Woman by Lucrecia Martel (2008)

Martel arrived in my consciousness when I noticed that the aforementioned Sight & Sound poll included three of her movies. There aren’t many directors with three movies on that list (for example, Miyazaki and Spielberg only have two). I haven’t gotten my hands on her most revered movie, The Swamp, but this movie is very good as well. It’s about a woman who accidentally hits someone with her car, escapes the situation, but can’t really handle the guilt and the paranoia of the situation. It should also be noted that I think she is the only female director I’ve seen a movie from who is from South America.

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