A-Z of Women – B

13.08.2016

This is my second post for the blogging challenge in Tarukirja blog. Rules are straightforward:  You go through the alphabet and answer the following questions by naming women whose first or last name begins with the letter in question.There is no time limit.

  1. Who is your favourite female author?
  2. There is other culture besides literature. Who is your favourite woman in culture other than literature?
  3. Two questions, you can answer both or just one. A) The woman you would like to get to know better? B) Who is your absolute favourite and would like to bring to attention?

1. Anne Brontë. My favourite of the Brontë sisters. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall was an impressive novel.

anne

2. Pauline Boty. She is definitely my favourite artist ever. One of the few famous female pop artists, she was almost completely forgotten after she died in 1966. I remember reading that her paintings were storaged in her brother’s barn and were salvaged when an exhibition was organized in 1998. See some pics here.

3A. Bodil Ipsen. She was a Danish film director. So far I’ve seen Mordets melodi (1944) and would like to see more. The funny thing about this film was that I noticed that the Danish language spoken in the 1940s seems to be easier to understand than contemporary Danish. Or maybe the actors just paid more attention to articulation…

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This is my third post for the Summer Reading Classic Film Book Challenge 2016.

I really wanted to like The Group (Finnish translation Ryhmä). It’s a story of eight young women who graduate from Vassar in 1933. It is the time of the Great Depression but these women are not really the ones to suffer because of it. They have time to worry about other things such as extramarital sex, birth control, miscarriages, cheating husbands, violent dates, sexism in the work place, mental health issues and lesbianism. Controversial subjects in the 1930s and also in 1963 when the book was published. These days not so much. I am sad to say but I found both the book and the film (directed by Sidney Lumet in 1966) tedious and dated. I didn’t care for any of the characters and I didn’t understand why they were friends in the first place. Also, eight main characters is just too much. Trying to get to know all of them is difficult. The movie is 150 minutes long and in desperate need of editing. The cast is pretty great with Candice Bergen, Shirley Knight and Richard Mulligan to name a few. And kudos to the costume department, the look and style are impeccable. Apparently The Group was an inspiration to Candace Bushnell when she wrote Sex and the City. However, SATC hasn’t yet lost its attraction unlike The Group.

 

ryhmä

Cover of Ryhmä 

group

DVD Cover

 

I found this charming blogging challenge in Tarukirja blog. It’s pretty simple. You go through the alphabet and answer the following questions by naming women whose first or last name begins with the letter in question. (There is no time limit with this challenge which is very good indeed.)

  1. Who is your favourite female author?
  2. There is other culture besides literature. Who is your favourite woman in culture other than literature?
  3. Two questions, you can answer both or just one. A) The woman you would like to get to know better? B) Who is your absolute favourite and would like to bring to attention?

I’ll begin with the letter A.

1. Margaret Atwood. She is such a versatile writer. She could write pretty much anything and I would read it.

2. Alice Pike Barney. She was an American painter. Her work is so impressive and I would say even magical.

APB

Alice Pike Barney: Young Woman in Black Hat (1927)  From: Wikipedia Commons

3. A) Astrud Gilberto. She is a Brazilian singer. So far I’ve listened to repeatedly her version of The Shadow of Your Smile. But there is probably a lot more amazing music by Astrud and I have to listen to it asap.

Separation

04.02.2016

Separation (1967) was directed by Jack Bond and screenplay written by Jane Arden. According to the DVD booklet Separation is a forgotten gem. And why forgotten? Separation didn’t receive good reviews back in the sixties. Perhaps because it was too art-housey? Or because the protagonist Jane is a 40-year-old separated woman who has not just left her child and husband but also taken on a younger lover? The world was not ready for this sort of thing. It was not ready to see a middle aged woman having a nervous breakdown on film. I have to say I don’t understand why this film isn’t appreciated just like all the other great new wave films of the sixties. Like Blow Up or Clèo de 5 á 7 or Sedmikrásky. It has it all: Procol Harum on the soundtrack, wonderful clothing choices, a female protagonist who has the perfect facial expressions (I adore Jane Arden now), an elusive storyline and some dead-on social commentary on the role of women. What’s not to love?

Thanks again to BFI for this DVD & blu-ray release!

separation

Lola Bensky

07.01.2015

I immediately wanted to read Lily Brett’s novel Lola Bensky when I saw the cover. And read the book jacket that mentions the words “London music scene”, “1967” and “rock stars”. The novel is all that but also much more. It is a work of fiction but very autobiographical at that, the author did in fact work as a rock journalist in Australia in the 60s and she did interview many rock legends.

Lola Bensky is an Australian 19-year-old music journalist who is the daughter of Holocaust survivors. Lola has heard many gruesome stories of the horrors of Auschwitz. These stories Lola recollects in her thoughts and sometimes even shares them with her interviewees. Lola meets and interviews for example Mick Jagger, Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin. And even Paul Jones and The Bee Gees are mentioned. The passage about Paul Jones is brief but it made my day! Lola recounts her interview with Mr. Jones whom she finds very confident and direct in a good way, without false modesty.

The themes of confidence, modesty and self-esteem are very crucial in the novel. Lola Bensky, who is quite content to be a rock journalist, doesn’t know how to enjoy life or to appreciate herself. She feels fat and rather than living the life of sex, drugs and rock’n’roll like so many others in music business, she spends her time working and dieting (or planning her cockamamy diets consisting of boiled eggs and watermelon). To Lola’s mother Renia, excess weight is something suspicious, as only the traitors in death camp were allowed enough food to eat, others suffered from severe malnutrition. The Holocaust is Lola’s trauma through her parents, Renia and Edek, even though Lola herself was born after the war and didn’t experience it firsthand. The badly traumatized survivors didn’t know how deal with the fact that they survived while so many others died. To Renia her survival is a constant source of antagonizing guilt which lives on in her daughter. So, The Holocaust continues to be a collective trauma also for the next generation. Everywhere Lola goes she reflects her own Jewish roots to other Jews. How to make peace with a past so dreadful? How to live and go on knowing that humanity is capable of inflicting such horrors?

The novel also brings up gender issues. As Lola talks with Janis Joplin and later Mama Cass, they both reveal the difficulties of working in a very male dominated rock music business especially as women who are not considered to be sexually attractive or beautiful in the traditional sense. However, Lola finds both Mama Cass and Janis Joplin to be happy and content with their lives. Many of the beautiful and thin celebrities Lola meets seem to be more unhappy and troubled despite their perfect appearances.

All in all, Lola Bensky is a novel about making peace with your past and finding self-worth as a woman. And stories about some great rock music personalities whose depictions might be true. Or not.

Lily Brett’s interview in The Sydney Morning Herald. 

Challenge #12: Who is your favourite actor and why?

One of my favourite actresses of all time is Jane Fonda who initially didn’t intend to follow her famous father’s footsteps into show business. Luckily she did because Ms. Fonda is one of the most original and versatile actresses in film history. She can do comedy and drama and excel in both. Any Wednesday (1966), the most annoying play ever turned in to a film, is worth watching thanks to Ms. Fonda. Most of her films are of better quality than AW, thank goodness!  Ms. Fonda and Robert Redford both shine in Barefoot in the Park (1967) which is a film adaptation of Neil Simon’s comedy. They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? (1969) and Klute (1971) proved once and for all that Ms. Fonda can also do dramatic roles.

Ms. Fonda isn’t just a wonderful actress. She is a feminist icon who isn’t afraid to speak her mind and take a stand. Her autobiography, My Life So Far, is probably the most insightful and inspiring ever written.

There have been several glorious female movie stars in the history of Finnish cinema but no one can hold a candle to Lea Joutseno (1910-1977). She appeared in fifteen films only but made her mark in film history. She starred in three film adaptations of Hilja Valtonen’s novels. The protagonists in these films are sassy, witty, independent and funny. A proper feminist idol I would say! Ms. Joutseno also worked on film scripts with her trusted director Valentin Vaala.

  

A couple of Lea Joutseno’s films are available on region 2 dvd. Unfortunately, Finnkino hasn’t invested in the releases at all. There are no subtitles, no remastering, no extras etc. At the very least there should be English subtitles so film lovers outside Finland could enjoy the talent of Ms. Joutseno.

The cover of Dynamiittityttö (Dynamite Girl) (1944)