Volume 26, Issue 7-8 / July–August 2022

Gender, Death, and FNC 2021

This double issue has several connecting themes, including issues of gender in Hollywood (with a review by Douglas E. MacLeod Jr. of a book whose subject was the lightning rod for the #metoo movement, Hollywood Ending: Harvey Weinstein and the Culture of Silence) and death (I know, not exactly a workable theme is it!). Alex Garland (Ex-Machina, Annihilation, Devs, Men) has always been a director who divides opinion, largely because he takes on big themes and challenges conventional notions of genre and narrative comprehension. His stories rarely give us a tidy resolution to paths taken by a character or a story. He may have gone further than usual in this respect with Men, starring Jessie Buckley as a character coping with the recent loss of her abusive husband. The issue begins with two essays on Alex Garland’s controversial horror-melodrama Men, the first by George Kowalik pairing Men with another fascinating female-driven drama, Rose Plays Julie. The second exclusively on Men is by Serdar Küçük. A third film I’ve seen recently which would make a fascinating thematic linkage to these two films is Resurrection (2022, Andrew Semans), which features an amazing performance from Rebecca Hall as a single parent whose life comes apart when an awful man from her past, played by Tim Roth, subtly worms his way back into her life. Without giving away too much, both Men and Resurrection contain bizarre male pregnancies. Picking up the theme of gender in the slasher/stalker film is Andrea G. Sotelo in her essay “The Final Girl and Male vs. Female Representation in Horror Films”. Sotelo adds a layer of nuance to our understanding of the Final Girl trope with respect our continuing understanding of the difference between sex and gender. For example, how final subjects who are ‘feminized’ are more likely to be sexualized and more likely to be traumatized by their ‘final girl’ ordeal. Death informs the next three pieces. Steffen Hantke’s analysis of the adventure film (The Martian and All is Lost) in “The Experience of a Life Time: Death, Mortal Peril, and Adventure on Screen” is a textbook case of bringing context to play in genre study. Hantke has come up with an intelligent and subtle examination of the function of death and its threat in the adventure film during a pandemic time when isolation has stripped people of the sort of direct physical experience at the root of much adventure (sport, game, outdoor activity, etc.). Hantke ends his essay by discussing the opening scene of M and how death is played out in the form of a kid’s game, which made me think immediately of the mega Netflix hit The Squid Game, about a secret death cult orchestrating do or die events based on Korean kid’s games. Greta Gard reviews Gaspar Noé‘s Vortex, which deals with the mental and physical decline of an aging couple, played by Italian director Dario Argento and French actress Françoise Lebrun (Vortex also played in Montreal’s Festival of Nouveau Cinema, reported on below). As Gard describes, with Vortex “Gaspar Noé swaps anarchy for introspection in this tender exploration of life and death.” The third article deals with death at the historical level, identified by perhaps one of the ugliest words in the English language, genocide. The Promise (Terry George, 2016), starring Oscar Isaac and Christian Bale, is a film about the Armenian genocide in Turkey. Although Daniel Garrett submitted this article to Offscreen many years ago, the timing seemed appropriate today with the ongoing atrocities and deaths being perpetrated in the Ukraine. Finishing the issue are three festival reports, two on the 50th anniversary of the FNC (Montreal’s Festival du Nouveau Cinéma) by Frédéric St-Hilaire and Donato Totaro celebrating the return to the theatres during the 2021 edition. Totaro focuses on a selection of experimental films and St-Hilaire was just super happy to be back in the theatres, so watched as much as he could! The third film festival report by Pablo García Conde comes from the remote Greek island of Castellorizo, which hosts the “Beyond Borders” film festival. (Donato Totaro, ed)

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