"Masculine" And "Feminine": How Men Shoot Melodramas Without Sexism

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"Masculine" And "Feminine": How Men Shoot Melodramas Without Sexism
"Masculine" And "Feminine": How Men Shoot Melodramas Without Sexism
Video: "Masculine" And "Feminine": How Men Shoot Melodramas Without Sexism
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"Honest Man" released - the second film by Louis Garrel (here he is not only an actor, but also a director) about a young Parisian who chooses between two women in love with him. Garrel - a superstar actor - plays a man who is insecure in his desires, who rather plays along with the circumstances than makes an informed choice. Similar to the New York melodrama Maggie's Plan, The Honest Man is a story about how two women - older and younger - make decisions for the hero and arrange their own and his fate. This ironic story is part of a much broader phenomenon: a complex, self-critical and anti-sexist view of the love and relationships of male filmmakers. We will tell you how the genre of melodrama has changed over the past decade in new optics.

TEXT: Alisa Taezhnaya, author of the telegram channel "See once"

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In the shadow of women

In the Shadow of Women - the title of a late film by Louis Garrel's father and the most important figure in the French New Wave Philippe - perfectly captures the mood of many European melodramas, where directors abandon the dominant "male gaze" in terms of both script and visualization and casting. Often black and white ("Constant Lovers", "Jealousy", "Lover for a Day", "In the Shadow of Women"), stingy with an emotional palette and at the same time saturated with lively colloquial speech, the cinema of Philip Garrel has been working for several decades in the canon invented in the 60s. Realistic circumstances, recognizable heroes, not oversaturated with catchy remarks, daily dialogues and life problems, not elevated to the rank of fatal, which everyone faces. In this method you can find both the root of the charm of American mumblecore, and the vitality of modern series about relationships, where the lack of action is compensated by dozens of unnecessary or superfluous words.

Speaking before acting, replacing actions with words or making actions out of words - Philippe Garrel, and with him Eric Romer, Jacques Rivette and Jean Eustache, came up with a kaleidoscope of male images that are not characterized by what we would now call "toxic masculinity" … Being self-confident, often vain and selfish, they are indecisive in front of pressing problems, lost against the background of decisive women who understand their desires, and often give in to the honesty of their partners or friends. Such a masculine position is most often vulnerable - and in The Honest Man, Louis Garrel deals with his character openly tough: dragging bags at the instigation of his wife and mistress from apartment to apartment, the almost forty-year-old protagonist is a creature of rather comic properties, living for a long time according to unproclaimed partner orders …

Enduring sensation

from the melodramatic plots of the 2010s: the division into "masculine"

and the "feminine" doesn't work anymore -

there are only naked souls

The two male characters in Friends, Garrel's debut, had the same properties. Being at large (unlike the main character in correctional labor), they do not find in themselves either words or a convenient moment to fight for the girl they like, falling into the trap of menage-a-trois - rather because of indecision than out of a balanced desire. The hero of In the Shadow of Women rethinks himself when he realizes that his wife also has her own secrets. And the father in Lover for a Day ceases to dominate the relationship when his daughter meets his mistress and his peer - it is the interconnection of two sympathetic girls that begins to guide the common story.

European auteur cinema (for social and political reasons) is generally built on the original parity of characters more than the Hollywood mainstream.Most modern directors mention French masters and independent directors such as John Cassavetes in their sources of influence - without concentrating on expectations of "masculinity" and "femininity", they told stories of general pain and confusion, however, never losing sight of how masculine vanity crashes when faced with a neutral outside world, not willing to bend under the instant desires of the main characters. The same indecision is characteristic of the main characters of the films by Hon San-Su and Jean-Paul Siveirak - masters of simple and subtle cinema, built on small interactions of characters and barely noticeable movements of their souls. A persistent feeling from the melodramatic plots of the 2010s: the division into “masculine” and “feminine” no longer works - there are only naked souls.

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Gay melodramas are no longer marginal

For a long time, queer cinema existed in a ghetto culture with heteronormative ideas that talking about homosexual relationships should be somehow special for your audience. Homosexuality ceases to look like speculation in the plots of gay directors who tell through films about personal experiences or film stories that have so little chance of being delicately told on the big screen by mainstream producers.

Last year's deafening success of “Call Me By Your Name” - both festival and audience - showed how much the audience has changed and why special thematic and visual tweaks are not required for gay melodrama, because we have nothing less than a story of first love. The melodrama about the Italian summer romance of a teenager and his father's professor assistant is a very personal film for its creator, openly gay Luca Guadagnino, continuing the traditions of European cinema about growing up: it's worth remembering The Wild Reed and I Don't Kiss Andre Teshin and his later films "When You Are Seventeen" and "Our Crazy Years" (these are all important milestones in gay cinema). The second queer film that made a big impact was Carol, about a secret lesbian romance between a Manhattan wife and a young department store saleswoman. "Sorry, Angel" by Christophe Honore is another of the latest examples of gay melodrama, where the question of rivalry for the heart of one person and his emotional hesitation is presented without objectifying homosexual relationships.

Heteronormativity is greater

not the only frame for

to tell a love story

Along with Christophe Honore, François Ozon has been working in France for a long time, from the first short films exploring the issues of gender and the right to sexuality. Having shot several films about homosexual relationships, he managed to tell love stories about a terminally ill man ("Farewell Time"), two secretly in love officers during the First World War ("Franz"), three seduced children from a Catholic environment ("By the will of God"), the novel of a widower with his wife's friend ("New Girlfriend") - and to film Fassbinder's play about lovers with a big age difference ("Raindrops on Hot Rocks").

Homosexual relationships from his very first film are reflected by Xavier Dolan - and the acceptance of the sensuality of the other will be the body of most of his films from "Imaginary Love" to "It's Just the End of the World." Homosexual relationships are easily integrated into the genre narrative: the master of this technique, for example, another Frenchman Alain Guirodie, is building an intrigue around a series of mysterious murders on a gay beach in "Stranger by the Lake" or the adventures of the protagonist in the comedy road phantasmagoria "Stand Alone". It is impossible not to mention one of the main professional films of the past year - the melodrama about the lesbian Thelma by the Dane Joachim Trier, where the author crossed a love story with a thriller genre about the supernatural nature of man.Heteronormativity is no longer the only frame for telling a love story - for which we should definitely be grateful to the most daring directors of the last decade.

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Heroism every day

We remember heroic deeds in melodramas as grand gestures, implausible changes for the sake of another and real feats in tragic circumstances - while everyday heroism, self-sacrifice in love and daily care and efforts for another person look much less spectacular. "Love is a disease", for example, based on the real story of the filmmakers, is a non-disgusting melodrama about what it is worth being around when a loved one is struck by a serious illness and circumstances no longer allow you to walk on your own. The topic of mental health concerns "My Boyfriend is Crazy", also not coincidentally based on the director's personal experience. He is the father of a guy with bipolar disorder, who knows what it takes to maintain a relationship with someone with mood swings, medication support, hospitalization and the constant threat of relapse.

Jacques Audiar's Rust and Bone is turned upside down when the southern romance of a young slacker and a beautiful shark trainer changes before our eyes after her legs are amputated. It's one thing to flirt and make promises to a beautiful and healthy girl, it's another to help the traumatized person not break down from the fear of loneliness and weakness. The drama "Still Alice" is about the same method of non-romantic, but necessary partner support, where the main character's man takes on her adaptation in Alzheimer's disease - again, about love that lives at every step, but for the time being was considered too unheroic for the big screen. Spousal support in Haneke's film also cannot be called "love" - ​​this is not how the sentiments of the elderly are sold to us. Instead of smiling old people relaxing on a sunny lawn - a typical advertising image of a happy old age - Haneke shows the affection of a husband and wife with limited communication and movement, where the rapid extinction of one infuriates and confuses the other. All the contradictions, however, do not deny the concern and desire to alleviate the pain and fate of a loved one, and at the same time to deprive yourself of suffering to watch death before your eyes.

Love as a feat at a time when life and historical circumstances are against your well-being is another major theme of modern melodrama about social injustice. "Loving" by Jeff Nichols about interracial marriage in a segregated society, "Fences" by Denzel Washington on the rise of an African American family in the 50s, and "If Beale Street Could Talk" about the ordeal of a pregnant girl and her falsely accused husband imprisoned stories of daily feats, often based on real events for which the heroes did not receive awards in their time. But it is the testing of love by the injustices of history and courage where it is needed that makes the male and female characters in modern melodramas so timely, and their authors, reflective and understanding manifestations of deep love.

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Disappointment after falling in love

The impossibility of a final happy ending and the mobility of human feelings are the properties of films by the most sensitive directors who understand the psychology and nature of human relations. The shared responsibility of both partners for their choices, the simultaneous disappointment, fatigue of each other and the gradual realization that they have outgrown a temporary relationship or cannot keep up with the ideal, is what makes the melodramas of the twenty-first century viable compared to the mainstream classics of the genre from the century. twentieth.Yes, the old favorite movie certainly offers a sweet pill for bitter days, but it does not answer the questions about how relationships break down, deteriorate and irreversibly change from day to day.

Terrence Malick gives a tactile way to experience one love and meet a new one through his flying camera: in the melodrama Music Between Us, built around the Austin music scene, he shows the fleetingness of falling in love through kisses, touches, a breath of wind and music coming from afar. He has already used this technique of non-narrative cinema - including the melodrama "To a Miracle" based on the story of his life: Malik tells how his feelings for one woman were dissolved and arose for another.

The greatest hit of 2017, the musical "La La Land" - is another story of unfulfilled love due to the different paths chosen by the aspiring musician and actress. The sentimental shell was chosen by Damien Chazelle to reimagine the most influential American genre, the musical, into a viable script for two ambitious people in a universe of possibilities. In parallel with theatrical performances with extras, Chazelle chooses the performance of songs with imperfect voices of actors in order to connect the torn off Hollywood reality with ordinary people of flesh and blood with their very understandable dreams.

To be lethargic and determined, cowardly and brave, indifferent and sympathetic is not "masculine"

and "feminine", but a universal human property

Inconsistency of temperaments and attitude to life Richard Linklater chooses the main theme of the last film of the trilogy "Before …" "Before midnight", where a man and a woman who have known each other for almost twenty years openly talk about mutual disappointment, quarrel and get irritated: they are tired of living together, and this is visible to the naked eye. It is the half-hour quarrel with the most secret claims to each other that makes Before Midnight such a viable film about long-term relationships, which does not create illusions about “happily ever after” in front of the viewer.

Contemporary American independent cinema, nurtured by Woody Allen's films and the American lifestyle habit of resolving conflicts through therapy, works on the problems of modern couples who are trying to solve them alone, with a therapist or on the advice of friends. Charlie McDowell's Beloved tells the story of two imperfect lovers in search of the ideal: meeting perfect copies of their partners in an enchanted house, they feel bored and false, but find themselves imprisoned in a world of their own fantasies. The genre writer of neuroses Alex Ross Perry in the melodrama "Golden Exits" draws bored married couples, where men do not have the courage to go after the girl they are interested in, and women have the care and attention to identify narcissism and build a happy relationship with someone else or be left alone … At the same time, Golden Exits is not a misanthropic movie, but a very sympathetic one: the heroes of the film are easily recognizable as prototypes of moderately happy couples who have long linked the idea of ​​a relationship with patience and compromise.

Joe Swanberg also looks at the border of love and habit - his melodramas always touch upon the banality of human feelings and the regular stages that all relationships go through, falling apart or moving on. "In Search of Fire" studies couples adultery in a strong family with a small child, where two loving people are swallowed up by monotony. In Drinking Companions, Swanberg looks at the typical no-obligation relationship for a lifetime and tests how viable short-term boyfriend-girlfriend scenarios are where there is no deep conflict but no real spark.

The filmography of the Frenchman Arnaud Desplechin also concerns the ornateness of love, its constant rootedness in our illusions and the desire to recreate the unattainable ideal of the past with current relationships.In the nostalgic Ghosts of Ismael, the protagonist and his partner are tormented by the image of the missing first wife, and the character of Three Memories of My Youth is dominated by the power of the first love that you want to carry through your whole life. Is the frustration caused by the inner urge or behavior of the other? Do we make the choice alone or under the inevitable influence of a partner? Be that as it may, none of the above directors follow gender stereotypes, giving their characters the choice to be themselves and responsibility for their own future. To be lethargic and decisive, cowardly and brave, indifferent and sympathetic, weak and strong, sometimes within the same character, but in different circumstances - not “masculine” and “feminine”, but a universal human property.

Photos: A-One Films

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