Volume 14, Issue 11 / November 2010

Views on/by Women

In this issue

For this special issue Offscreen casts a glance at films that have as their focus strong female characters and/or issues of specific concern to female critical discourses (feminism, women’s social history, women’s sexuality). Having said that, the featured essays indeed represent a mixed bag of subjects (social history, gender battle), film forms (documentary, art film, sports film), and critical approaches. The opening essay looks at a ‘master class’ given by the Italian documentary filmmaker Paola Sangiovanni, in which she introduced her work, culminating in her most recent film, Ragazze, la vita trema. With her archival work and formal concerns Sangiovanni deals in a personal way with the rise of female consciousness in Italy during the late 1960s, early 1970s. The next two-part essay looks at a film which has divided viewers and caused great controversy where ever it has played, Lars Von Trier’s Antichrist. Von Trier is no stranger to controversy, but seems to have outdone himself with this unique battle of the sexes which is perhaps his most intense, Kammerspiel-like chamber piece. First-time writer Dorothy Geller approaches this complex film with the same level of meticulous, theoretical complexity, borrowing concepts from psychoanalysis, feminism, and literary theory to argue against the commonly held misogynist view of the film. Similar to the way Sangiovanni uses female social and political history, Geller contextualises the film within the history of witches and the witch hunting campaigns across Europe, relating the campaigns to the rise of capitalism and female domestication. The final two-part essay represents a marked change in methodology from Geller’s essay. Elaine Lennon presents a detailed script analysis of Robert Towne’s sport film with a heavy lesbian theme, Personal Best. In her study she analyzes how the film modulates between the conventions of the romance and sports film (Part one) and questions of character and authorship (Part two). (Donato Totaro, ed.)

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