Vengeance is Hers

A review series inspired by Vengeance is Hers, a program of female revenge movies running at BAMcinématek, February 7–18, 2014.

Vengeance Be Mine

Vengeance Be Mine

If historical oppression is justification for raising hell, then it’s no surprise that many films in the BAM series blatantly court the supernatural and wicked.

I began to explore my own feelings about revenge and how it can be productive—not to hurt others as payback, but as a tool to hammer at my own rage and feelings of discontent. Revenge, I came to believe, was a process to rectify relationships where I concealed my true self. It was a kind of personal reckoning.

New World Order

New World Order

The scream’s a good weapon.

Terminal Island is a left-ish fata morgana by a femme with no time to lose. If James Cameron, Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorcese, and several other, male protégés of Roger Corman made B movies as practice for A movies, Rothman made B movies as a way to make movies, period, but also as blueprints for a world in which, someday, Kathryn Bigelow would beat Cameron for the Oscar.

Powerhouse

Powerhouse

“The world doesn’t look any less pretty when skull-bashings and stabbings take place,” the film critic Stanley Kauffmann once wrote of Shohei Imamura’s serial-killer film Vengeance Is Mine. The same could be said of Jack Hill’s Coffy, and it has everything to do with Pam Grier, who plays the title heroine.

Dream Job

Dream Job

The idea that working nine to five was once possible may be in itself inspiration to revolt and organize.

This fairytale scene is the Tomlin character’s stoned-out fantasy of how she would off their “sexist, lying egotistical, hypocritical pig” of a boss. She, Fonda, and Parton have left work early and headed to a bar after boss (Dabney Coleman, delightfully unctuous and dim) fires a coworker unfairly. “Let’s revolt,” jokes the blowzy office drunk.

Devil in Disguise

Devil in Disguise

She-Devil is a film that indicts both sexes, male and female, for transforming women into contorted puppets of male desire.

Mary tells an interviewer, amid well-timed pauses and mild whimpers, “I just try to think beautiful thoughts, so that the beauty will come out in what I write.” She, herself, is equipped with an abundance of beauty. She even has her own isomorphic companion of sorts—a hot Latino butler named Garcia, clad in cheap satin open-faced shirts.

Sweet Forgiveness

Sweet Forgiveness

All screwball comedies are, to some degree, female revenge movies.

Charles, however, has no aptitude for cards, can’t tell the difference between beer and ale, and seems never to have talked to a woman before. As he sits alone at dinner in his spotless white tuxedo reading a book called Are Snakes Necessary?, he is both ridiculous and a blank slate, an unexplored continent—an Adam to her Eve.

Bad Credit

Bad Credit

While money has given Ramatou power, the film emphasizes that power makes no guarantees against the force of history. In his death, Drameh is recast as the lynchpin for an equally prejudicial development strategy, which offers modernization’s commodities in exchange for brutal retrenchments. The film suggests that where one patriarchy is razed, another finds its foundations.

Black Cats

Black Cats

Revenge, for these women, tastes like blood, and like sex.

Revenge, for these women, tastes like blood, and like sex. In ritual executions that masquerade as seductions, Shige and Yone draw samurai back to their home and pick them off, one by one. These scenes bring the film’s taut surrealism into sharper focus, and Kuroneko manages to feel both rigorous and languid without any sense of compromise.

Whose Boredom?

Whose Boredom?

Jeanne Dielman is “boredom” in real time, but the question remains whose boredom it is. Is she bored, or are we?

You can sense Akerman’s irritation at the continual fascination with her youth; in a 2010 interview, she snapped back to a question about watching Godard’s Pierrot Le Fou, long cited as a life-changing experience for Akerman: “Oh, I have said that a hundred times. Forget about it. You know all about that. I have told that story one million times.”

Callas's Medea

Callas's Medea

A diva approaches her entire career like a woman spurned.

Critics were surprised at the subtlety of Callas’ camera acting, but they shouldn’t have been. Callas experienced her darkest rages in private. Her secretary describes a late-night call from Onassis that sent Callas into hysterics on the eve of the first day of filming. The staff tried to console her, but when it got late, they made to leave Callas in privacy. “You’re going to abandon me now? You’re just like him! None of you care!” She reportedly yelled.

In the Habit

In the Habit

Living itself is vengeance. But the fantasy of the gun is one of finality. No more explaining: Bang. One sees the appeal.

Where her friend’s backtalk nips unwanted advances in the bud, Thana’s silence reads to the men around her as an invitation. Eventually, she starts carrying the gun. She hacks Rapist 2, still stashed in her bathtub, into pieces, dumping trash bags full of his remains around the city two at a time. When one sleazy guy chases after her—Hey lady! You forgot your bag!—she panics and shoots him. Her muteness offers a good enough explanation for why she’s a perfect shot: she’s a cowboy.

Vengeance Be Mine

Vengeance Be Mine

If historical oppression is justification for raising hell, then it’s no surprise that many films in the BAM series blatantly court the supernatural and wicked.

I began to explore my own feelings about revenge and how it can be productive—not to hurt others as payback, but as a tool to hammer at my own rage and feelings of discontent. Revenge, I came to believe, was a process to rectify relationships where I concealed my true self. It was a kind of personal reckoning.

New World Order

New World Order

The scream’s a good weapon.

Terminal Island is a left-ish fata morgana by a femme with no time to lose. If James Cameron, Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorcese, and several other, male protégés of Roger Corman made B movies as practice for A movies, Rothman made B movies as a way to make movies, period, but also as blueprints for a world in which, someday, Kathryn Bigelow would beat Cameron for the Oscar.

Powerhouse

Powerhouse

“The world doesn’t look any less pretty when skull-bashings and stabbings take place,” the film critic Stanley Kauffmann once wrote of Shohei Imamura’s serial-killer film Vengeance Is Mine. The same could be said of Jack Hill’s Coffy, and it has everything to do with Pam Grier, who plays the title heroine.

Dream Job

Dream Job

The idea that working nine to five was once possible may be in itself inspiration to revolt and organize.

This fairytale scene is the Tomlin character’s stoned-out fantasy of how she would off their “sexist, lying egotistical, hypocritical pig” of a boss. She, Fonda, and Parton have left work early and headed to a bar after boss (Dabney Coleman, delightfully unctuous and dim) fires a coworker unfairly. “Let’s revolt,” jokes the blowzy office drunk.

Devil in Disguise

Devil in Disguise

She-Devil is a film that indicts both sexes, male and female, for transforming women into contorted puppets of male desire.

Mary tells an interviewer, amid well-timed pauses and mild whimpers, “I just try to think beautiful thoughts, so that the beauty will come out in what I write.” She, herself, is equipped with an abundance of beauty. She even has her own isomorphic companion of sorts—a hot Latino butler named Garcia, clad in cheap satin open-faced shirts.

Sweet Forgiveness

Sweet Forgiveness

All screwball comedies are, to some degree, female revenge movies.

Charles, however, has no aptitude for cards, can’t tell the difference between beer and ale, and seems never to have talked to a woman before. As he sits alone at dinner in his spotless white tuxedo reading a book called Are Snakes Necessary?, he is both ridiculous and a blank slate, an unexplored continent—an Adam to her Eve.

Bad Credit

Bad Credit

While money has given Ramatou power, the film emphasizes that power makes no guarantees against the force of history. In his death, Drameh is recast as the lynchpin for an equally prejudicial development strategy, which offers modernization’s commodities in exchange for brutal retrenchments. The film suggests that where one patriarchy is razed, another finds its foundations.

Black Cats

Black Cats

Revenge, for these women, tastes like blood, and like sex.

Revenge, for these women, tastes like blood, and like sex. In ritual executions that masquerade as seductions, Shige and Yone draw samurai back to their home and pick them off, one by one. These scenes bring the film’s taut surrealism into sharper focus, and Kuroneko manages to feel both rigorous and languid without any sense of compromise.

Whose Boredom?

Whose Boredom?

Jeanne Dielman is “boredom” in real time, but the question remains whose boredom it is. Is she bored, or are we?

You can sense Akerman’s irritation at the continual fascination with her youth; in a 2010 interview, she snapped back to a question about watching Godard’s Pierrot Le Fou, long cited as a life-changing experience for Akerman: “Oh, I have said that a hundred times. Forget about it. You know all about that. I have told that story one million times.”

Callas's Medea

Callas's Medea

A diva approaches her entire career like a woman spurned.

Critics were surprised at the subtlety of Callas’ camera acting, but they shouldn’t have been. Callas experienced her darkest rages in private. Her secretary describes a late-night call from Onassis that sent Callas into hysterics on the eve of the first day of filming. The staff tried to console her, but when it got late, they made to leave Callas in privacy. “You’re going to abandon me now? You’re just like him! None of you care!” She reportedly yelled.