Friday, March 6, 2009

Chick Flicks, the book

do you like the book? why/why not? anyone actually reading it?


  1. I like the book. I'm reading and re-reading it since I seem to have every little ability to remember all the details in the book. I like Chick Flicks because Ruby shares her "scene" and the social context for which the films were viewed/defined in. I'm glad for the brief introduction to women in film making and that there is some kind of an account of our history in film outside of a boring academic text or some short list. I'm excited to get into the films now that where part of the feminist movement in the 70's and 80's. I'm reading at a pace where I hang out in the sections of the book of the films we are viewing. I want to watch as many films as possible that Ruby discusses and really soak up my history of cinefeminism schooling. I have already grown in my ability to consider this body of work thus far and the way in which I view them has evolved and think this is really productive for my own learning. The few times I have watched films by feminist prior to this project were in a art gallery setting or small bits in film fests. I never felt a strong connection to cinefeminist work until now. I want to know this collection of work inside out and have a strong understanding of what this herstory is. So for this book Chick Flicks I am grateful.

    Weather or not folks are reading this book is a point of contention for me. I am so excited about this reading that I really wanted other people to share reading it and the learning from it with me. So I took the effort to get people copies of the book, since folks seemed to share my enthusiasms, but it seems like only half of the folks with the book have cracked them open, and that's a bummer for me. Maybe I should not take that so personally? I don't know...

  2. Hello all, I seem to have finally worked out getting notified when there are new posts here so I hope I won't miss any more posts and screenings.

    The book is more accessible to me than a lot of other 'academic' books that I've read which tend to have extremely dense writing styles that take me forever to unpack. This book has that kind of depth but is written in a way that is immediately engaging and a lot of that comes down to the human element of weaving together personal experience with analysis and critique.

    I was first introduced to Maya Deren's work at a young age (probably 14 or 15) by my older brother who was also into Kenneth Anger's films around that time. Actually I was also introduced to zines by my brother but that's a whole 'nother story. Anyhow, I didn't really remember much of the Kenneth Anger films but the Maya Deren films really stuck with me and it wasn't long until I was sneaking off with my Mom's camcorder and trying to make what I thought were dreamlike and seemingly symbolic videos. I also made funny and silly videos, but seeing Maya Deren's films definitely expanded my ideas of what films and videos could be like. So it's interesting to read analyses of her work years later after having had kind of an informal intro to her work. I'm not so interested in the aspects relating to voudoun and I have some sort of cautious thoughts about things that seem like they could be related to cultural appropriation in certain ways, as far as a European avant garde artist becoming singularly fascinated with aspects of Haitian religious culture... I don't know enough about her involvement in that but it seems like something that could have been a factor in her decision to not complete the film 'Divine Horsemen,' as perhaps she didn't want to present her sincere involvement in it as something that could be (mis)interpreted as a superficial or voyeuristic look at it. Also religion/spiritual practice is pretty private for most people so I can understand perhaps having started the film with one mindset but eventually changing her mind about whether it was something that should be shared with strangers in the public sphere.

    I have a lot of things I could ramble on about the films and filmmakers but I just wanted to mention that one part that really jumped out at me was her recounting of a type of conference that was set up in her loft in Chicago which brought together a lot of women involved in film in the 70s and how the things they discussed sparked ideas that each of them continued to focus on in their work for the next decade. And I think it's a main theme in her book, that those types of community connections are a main source of inspiration and excitement that help cultivate the growth of individuals and ultimately movements (although the movements might not be identifiable until years later). I like terms like community better than scene because scene conjurs up a lot of negative elements to me like exclusivity as well as an element of spectacle and people who actually don't do much, and I think 'scenes' by their nature are short-lived; community refers to something more sustainable, potentially intergenerational, and so forth... maybe the words aren't that important, I'm not really that hung up on the terminology but it was just something that sprang into my mind.

  3. i didn't have my own copy until this weekend. before that whenever i pick it up i got annoyed at the author. what little feminist film theory i know, she seems to be dismissive of...which made me re-read laura mulvey and e. ann kaplan this week--two writers who were so influential on recent generations of feminist artists that it seems a little, uh, biased, not to carefully consider their work in a history of feminist film. but i guess the point is that this is a subjective, personalized history....right? i just get sort of suspicious when i see an author spin history a certain's like, if she is dismissing laura mulvey and e. ann kaplan without carefully considering their groundbreaking work (not to mention her dismissal of susan sontag-- one of the most perceptive critics and exciting thinkers of the 20th century, male or female) then...what else is she missing or not exploring here? when i see this kind of gap in any kind of documentary, it makes me not trust the work as a whole. i am not qualified to speak on this history with authority, but i have noticed what seems to be a competitive, framing of other schools of thought in feminist film. i also noticed this a bit when she mentions avant garde film people. it's as if she is writing about a scene she was a participant in, leaving out people she has personal beefs with or simply doesn't like. i imagine if someone who lives in olympia wrote their own personalized, subjective history of riot grrl the same would be true....which would be long as the reader understood the writer's bias and/or had a reason to be interested in her particular perspective. it's a problem i think of a lot as a critic who is interested in documenting local feminist history that i have participated in. i think they key to the problem with chick flicks, is realizing it needs to be supplemented with additional reading, if the goal is to get an understanding of feminist film history. there is actually a lot of writing on this, which librarians everywhere will be happy to help you find, though more of it is likely to be found in the college libraries.

    update: she actually does consider their work, later in the book, which i haven't read, but in the rest of the chapters she is dismissive.

    i just read the chapter about Mådchen in Uniform and it is definitely the BEST part of the book so far, so maybe I'll write about that next. I still think that it's funny/ironic that she uses what she calls psychoanalytic terminology/methods to analyze the film after going on about how male, and therefore not theoretically relevant to feminist criticism, those terms are. the fact that she criticizes feminists who are also employing this strategy and this basis and then does it herself, strikes me as really kind of messed up. a revealing inconsistency perhaps? similar to joaquin's earlier post, since she is a smart, analytical person and presenting her older work with more recently written prefaces to give historical context, i wonder if she is aware of the contradictions within her own writing and is perhaps using the book itself as a way to explore that? not sure but regardless, i don't think she should have to use oppositional strategies towards other feminist film critics in order to document this history, or theorize differently.

  4. Hi Giles, I think I've been text messaging you the screening info, but I bet you have a land line. Sorry about that.

    I share your feelings about the book's accessibility. I think her writing style is cool, and wish more recounts/analysis of his/herstory where done in this manner.

    Trying to comprehend Maya Deren's work for me has been most enlightening to my film appreciation. I am so conditioned from the bombardment of "hollywood" that I have not spent enough time considering all the different approaches to films that could/do/should exsist. I can compare my development to growing up on corn syrup and white sugar and learning to eat dates and using agave nectar instead. I still am at a point in my film theory understanding/development that I'm addicted to the sugar (ie flashy/dramatic/short attention span designed), but trying to see beyond my conditioned perception and find meaning/understanding in different forms of the medium. What struck me with Deren's work was her ability to create mood/emotion with out the conventional tools of the narrative. I understood what she was saying, but she wasn't telling me with a dramatic story line...

    I had similar thoughts to you on why she never completed Divine Horseman. We should look and see if she ever wrote anything on the matter. I did think the camera in Divine Horseman was voyeuristic at times, the subjects aware of it's presence and that in turn effecting their behaviour. I also have considered how radical it was for a young white woman to drop out of NY society for a while and live in Haiti to research/record Haitians. I think about how this all happened during a segregated time period, pre civil rights movement, and wonder what kind of discouragement she received. She was strongly willed what ever the case to explore a race's physical movements and found them valid in a time period that so many racist people gave no significance to, in terms of dance "scene" and well as every other. I'm late to go load in for a show, gotta go play so I'll continue this conversation later. I haven't read your post tobi as of yet, but will soon. xx kanako