Riddles of the Sphinx

23.01.2016

Everyone who has ever studied media culture or film theory has at least heard of Laura Mulvey‘s essay Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema (1975). The essay is definitely one of the major texts in feminist film theory and it is often quoted. Mulvey’s claim is basicly this: mainstream Hollywood film always positions the actress as the object of a male gaze and desire. Mulvey uses psychoanalytic theory in constructing her own theory of traditional film narrative as a manifestation of patriarchal system. One can ask is psychoanalytical theory still relevant to analyse film. I’m not really one to say. Mulvey’s point of view is interesting though.

Riddles of the Sphinx (1977) is Laura Mulvey’s and Peter Wollen’s second collaboration in filmmaking. It is an avant-garde classic and ever since I read Mulvey’s essay I’ve wanted to see this film. However, I was a bit hesitant to watch it since I don’t always appreciate avant-garde… Well, I was pleasantly surprised. The film is very political yet artistic. I quite liked the 360 degree panning shots that break the traditional narrative. The film score (by Mike Ratledge) is almost hypnotic. The film consists of chapters, most of them show protagonist Louise who struggles with society’s expectations of her as a woman and a mother. Mulvey and Wollen definitely have a  unique point of view that comes across in the film.

British Film Institute has yet again done a marvellous job by releasing this film on DVD and Blu-ray. Extras include Mulvey’s and Wollen’s first film Penthesileia and audio commentary with Mulvey.

mulvey

 

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