The woman's film is a film genre which includes women-centered narratives, female protagonists and is designed to appeal to a female audience. Woman's films usually portray "women's concerns" such as problems revolving around domestic life, the family, motherhood, self-sacrifice, and romance. These films were produced from the silent era through the 1950s and early 1960s, but were most popular in the 1930s and 1940s, reaching their zenith during World War II. Although Hollywood continued to make films characterized by some of the elements of the traditional woman's film in the second half of the 20th century, the term itself disappeared in the 1960s. The work of directors George Cukor, Douglas Sirk, Max Ophüls, and Josef von Sternberg has been associated with the woman's film genre. Joan Crawford, Bette Davis, and Barbara Stanwyck were some of the genre's most prolific stars.
The beginnings of the genre can be traced back to D. W. Griffith's silent films. Film historians and critics defined the genre and canon in retrospect. Before the woman's film became an established genre in the 1980s, many of the classic woman's films were referred to as melodramas.
When the woman's film was still at a nascent stage, it was not regarded as a fully independent genre. Mary Ann Doane, for example, argued that the woman's film is not a "pure genre" because it is crossed and informed by a number of other genres such as melodrama, film noir, the gothic, and horror film. Similarly, film scholar Scott Simmon argues that the woman's film has remained "elusive" to the point of having its very existence questioned. This elusiveness, he argues, is partially due to the fact that the woman's film is an oppositional genre which can only be defined in opposition to male-centered genres like the Western and gangster film. It has also been noted that it is a critically rather than industrially constructed genre, having been defined in retrospect rather than at the time of the films' production. The woman's film was seen as closely related to and even synonymous with melodrama. Other terms commonly used to describe the woman's film were "drama", "romance", "love story", "comedy drama", and "soap opera". Since the late 1980s, the woman's film has been an established film genre. Film scholar Justine Ashby, however, has observed a trend in British cinema that she calls "generic eclipse" whereby films that adhere to all the fundamental tenets of the woman's film are subsumed under other genres. Millions Like Us (1943) and Two Thousand Women (1944), for example, have been described and promoted as war films rather than woman's films.
The woman's film differs from other film genres in that it is primarily addressed to women. Cinema historian Jeanine Basinger argues that the first of three purposes of the woman's film is "to place a woman at the center of the story universe". In most other and particularly men-oriented film genres the opposite is the case as women and their concerns have been assigned minor roles. Molly Haskell explains that "if a woman hogs this universe unrelentingly, it is perhaps her compensation for all the male-dominated universes from which she has been excluded: the gangster film, the western, the war film, the policier, the rodeo film, the adventure film". The second purpose of the woman's film, according to Basinger, is "to reaffirm in the end the concept that a woman's true job is that of being a woman". A romantic ideal of love is presented as the only "career" that will guarantee happiness and that women should aspire to. The third purpose of the genre, as suggested by Basinger, is "to provide a temporary visual liberation of some sort, however small – an escape into a purely romantic love, into sexual awareness, into luxury, or into the rejection of the female role". Basinger argues that the major – if not only – action of the woman's film and its biggest source of drama and tragedy is the necessity to make a choice. The heroine will have to decide between two or more paths that are equally appealing but mutually exclusive as, for example, romantic love and a fulfilling job. One path will be right and consistent with the film's overall morality and the other path will be wrong but it will provide liberation. As the films' heroines were punished for following the wrong path and ultimately reconciled to their roles as women, wives, and mothers, Basinger argues that woman's films "cleverly contradict themselves" and "easily reaffirm the status quo for the woman's life while providing little releases, small victories or even big releases, big victories".
Unlike male-centered movies which are frequently shot outdoors, most woman's films are set in the domestic sphere, which defines the lives and roles of the female protagonist. Whereas the events in woman's films – weddings, proms, births – are socially defined by nature and society, the action in male films – chasing criminals, participating in a fight – is story-driven.
The themes in woman's and male-oriented films are often diametrically opposed: fear of separation from loved ones, emphasis on emotions, and human attachment in women's films, as opposed to fear of intimacy, repressed emotionality, and individuality in male-oriented movies. The plot conventions of woman's films revolve around several basic themes: love triangles, unwed motherhood, illicit affairs, the rise to power, and mother-daughter relationships. The narrative pattern depends on the activity engaged in by the heroine and commonly includes sacrifice, affliction, choice, and competition. The maternal melodrama, the career woman comedy, and the paranoid woman's film, a subgenre based on suspicion and distrust, are the most frequent subgenres. Female madness, depression, hysteria, and amnesia were frequent plot elements in Hollywood's woman's films of the 1940s. This trend took place when Hollywood tried to incorporate aspects of psychoanalysis. In the medical discourse in films like Now, Voyager (1942), Possessed (1947) and Johnny Belinda (1948), mental health is visually represented by beauty and mental illness by an unkept appearance; health was restored if the female protagonist improved her appearance. Friendship among women was fairly common, although the treatment was superficial and focused more on women's dedication to men and female-male relationships than on their friendships with each other.
The woman's films that were produced in the 1930s during the Great Depression have a strong thematic focus on class issues and questions of economic survival whereas the 1940s woman's film places its protagonists in a middle- or upper-middle-class world and is more concerned with the characters' emotional, sexual, and psychological experiences.
The female protagonist is portrayed as either good or bad. Haskell distinguishes three types of women that are particularly common to woman's films: the extraordinary, ordinary and the "ordinary woman who becomes extraordinary". The extraordinary women are characters like Scarlett O'Hara and Jezebel who are played by equally extraordinary actresses like Vivien Leigh and Bette Davis. They are independent and emancipated "aristocrats of their sex" who transcend the limitations of their sexual identities. The ordinary women, in contrast, are bound by the rules of their respective societies because their range of options is too limited to break free of their limitations. The ordinary woman who becomes extraordinary is a character who "begins as a victim of discriminatory circumstances and rises, through pain, obsession, or defiance, to become mistress of her fate." Depending on the type of heroine a film champions, a film can be either socially conservative or progressive. Certain archetypal characters appear in many woman's films: unreliable husbands, the other man, a female competitor, the reliable friend, usually an older woman, and the sexless male, frequently depicted as an older man who offers the protagonist security and luxury but makes no sexual demands on her.
A common motif in Hollywood's woman's films is that of the doppelgänger sisters (often played by the same actress), one good and one bad who vie for one man as Bette Davis in her double role in A Stolen Life (1946) and Olivia de Havilland in The Dark Mirror (1946). The good woman is portrayed as passive, sweet, emotional, and asexual whereas the bad woman is assertive, intelligent, and erotic. The conflict between them is resolved with the defeat of the bad woman. A central element of the 1980s British woman's film is the motif of escape. Woman's films allow their respective female protagonists to escape their everyday lives and their socially and sexually prescribed roles. The escape can take the form of a journey to another place such as the USSR in Letter to Brezhnev (1985) and Greece in Shirley Valentine (1989) or education as in Educating Rita (1983) and sexual initiation as in Wish You Were Here (1987).
The beginnings of the genre can be traced back to D. W. Griffith, whose one- and two-reelers A Flash of Light (1910) and Her Awakening (1911) feature the trademark narratives of repression and resistance that would later define a majority of women's films. Other predecessors of the genre include women-centered serial films such as The Exploits of Elaine (1914) and Ruth of the Rockies (1920).
The woman's film genre was particularly popular in 1930s and 1940s, reaching its zenith during World War II. The film industry of that time had an economic interest in producing such films as women were believed to comprise a majority of movie-goers. In line with this perception, many woman's films were prestigious productions which attracted some of the best stars and directors. Some film scholars suggest that the genre as a whole was well-regarded within the film industry, while others argue that the genre and term "woman's film" had derogatory connotations and was used by critics to dismiss certain films.
Production of women's films dropped off in the 1950s as melodrama became more male-centered and as soap operas began to appear on television. Although Hollywood continued to make films marked by some of the features and concerns of the traditional woman's film in the second half of the 20th century, the term itself disappeared in the 1960s.
The genre was revived in the early 1970s. Attempts to create modern versions of the classic woman's film, updated to take account of new social norms, include Martin Scorsese's Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore (1974), An Unmarried Woman (1978) by Paul Mazursky, Garry Marshall's Beaches (1988), and Fried Green Tomatoes (1991) by Jon Avnet. Similarly, the 2002 films The Hours and Far from Heaven took their cues from the classic woman's film. Elements of the woman's film have reemerged in the modern horror film genre. Films such as Brian De Palma's Carrie (1976) and Ridley Scott's Alien (1979) subvert traditional representations of femininity and refuse to follow the traditional marriage plot. The female protagonists in these movies are driven by something other than romantic love.
Within British cinema, David Leland returned to the formula of the 1980s woman's film in The Land Girls (1998). The film tells the story of three young women during World War II and offers its heroines the opportunity to escape their old lives. Bend It Like Beckham (2002) emphasizes the key generic theme of female friendship and casts the heroine in a conflict between the restrictions of her traditional Sikh upbringing and her aspirations to become a football player. Lynne Ramsay's Morvern Callar is based on the woman's film tradition; a young woman escapes to Spain and pretends to be the author of her boyfriend's novel. While Morvern's journeys and transformations allow for liberation, she ends up where she started.
Jeanine Basinger notes that woman's films were often criticized for reinforcing conventional values, above all, the notion that women could only find happiness in love, marriage and motherhood. However, she argues that they were "subtly subversive". They implied that a woman could not combine a career and a happy family life, but they also offered women a glimpse of a world outside the home, where they did not sacrifice their independence for marriage, housekeeping, and childrearing. The pictures depicted women with successful careers as journalists, pilots, car company presidents, and restaurateurs. Similarly, Simmon notes that the genre offered a mixture of repression and liberation, in which repressive narratives are regularly challenged, partly via mise-en-scène and acting but also by conflicts within the narratives themselves. He further states that such resistances were present in some of the earliest woman's films and became the rule with Douglas Sirk's postwar American woman's films. Others have argued, however, that the narratives of these films offer only the repressive perspective and that viewers must read the texts "against the grain" to be able to find a liberating message. Critics such as Haskell have criticized the term "woman's film" itself. She writes:
What more damning comment on the relations between men and women in America than the very notion of something called the 'woman's film'? ... A film that focuses on male relationships is not pejoratively dubbed a 'man's film' ..., but a 'psychological drama.'"
Some woman's film have been met with critical acclaim. Woman's films that were selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" include It Happened One Night (1934), Imitation of Life (1934), Jezebel (1938), Gone with the Wind (1939), The Women (1939), The Lady Eve (1941), Now, Voyager (1942), Mildred Pierce (1945), Letter from an Unknown Woman (1948), Adam's Rib (1949), All About Eve (1950), and All That Heaven Allows (1955).
Anne Fontaine (born Anne-Fontaine Sibertin-Blanc; 15 July 1959) is a film director, screenwriter, and former actress. She lives and works in France.Chick flick
Chick flick is a slang term, sometimes used pejoratively, for the film genre dealing mainly with love and romance which is targeted to a female audience. Although many types of films may be directed toward the female gender, "chick flick" is typically used only in reference to films that contain personal drama and emotion or themes that are relationship-based (although not necessarily romantic as films may focus on parent-child or friend relationships). Chick flicks often are released en masse around Valentine's Day. Feminists such as Gloria Steinem have objected to terms such as "chick flick" and the related genre term "chick lit", and a film critic has called it derogatory.Daughters of the Dust
Daughters of the Dust is a 1991 independent film written, directed and produced by Julie Dash and is the first feature film directed by an African-American woman distributed theatrically in the United States. Set in 1902, it tells the story of three generations of Gullah (also known as Geechee) women in the Peazant family on Saint Helena Island as they prepare to migrate to the North on the mainland.
The film gained critical praise for its lush visuals, Gullah dialogue and non-linear storytelling. The cast features Cora Lee Day, Alva Rogers, Barbara-O, Trula Hoosier, Vertamae Grosvenor, and Kaycee Moore and was filmed on St. Helena Island in South Carolina. Daughters of the Dust was selected for the Sundance 1991 dramatic competition. Director of photography Arthur Jafa won the top cinematography prize. The film is also known for being the first by an African American woman to gain a general theatrical release.Dash has written two books about Daughters of the Dust, one about the making the film, co-authored with Toni Cade Bambara and bell hooks, and one novel, a sequel set 20 years after the film's story. In 2004 the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant." For its 25th anniversary Daughters of the Dust was restored and re-released in 2016 by the Cohen Media Group.From Reverence to Rape
From Reverence to Rape: The Treatment of Women in the Movies is a 1974 book (revised and reissued in 1987) by feminist film critic Molly Haskell (born 1939). It was one of the first books to chronicle women's images in film. Along with Marjorie Rosen's Popcorn Venus, it typifies the first feminist expeditions into film history and criticism, adopting the "image of woman" approach. Haskell compared the portrayal of women on-screen to real life women off-screen to determine if the representation of women in Hollywood cinema was accurate. Later developments in feminist film theory have partially rejected Haskell's and Rosen's approach as rudimentary.Gothic romance film
The Gothic romance film is a Gothic film with feminine appeal. Diane Waldman wrote in Cinema Journal that Gothic films in general "permitted the articulation of feminine fear, anger, and distrust of the patriarchal order" and that such films during World War II and afterward "place an unusual emphasis on the affirmation of feminine perception, interpretation, and lived experience". Between 1940 and 1948, the Gothic romance film was prevalent in Hollywood, being produced by well-known directors and actors. The best-known films of the era were Rebecca (1940), Suspicion (1941), and Gaslight (1944). Less well-known films were Undercurrent (1946) and Sleep, My Love (1948). Waldman describes these films' Gothic rubric: "A young inexperienced woman meets a handsome older man to whom she is alternately attracted and repelled." Other films from the decade include The Enchanted Cottage (1945) and The Heiress (1949).The Gothic romance films from the 1940s often contain the "Bluebeard motif", meaning that in the typical setting of the house, a certain part is either forbidden to be used or even closed off entirely. In the films, the forbidden room is a metaphor for the heroine's repressed experience, and opening the room is a cathartic moment in the film. In addition, the layout of the house in such films (as well as Gothic novels) creates "spatial disorientation [that] causes fear and an uncanny restlessness".In 2015, director Guillermo del Toro released the Gothic romance film Crimson Peak. He said past films had been "brilliantly written by women and then rendered into films by male directors who reduce the potency of the female characters". For Crimson Peak, he sought to reverse this cinematic trope.Joseph Brooks (songwriter)
Joseph Brooks, born Joseph Kaplan (March 11, 1938 – May 22, 2011), was an American composer, director, producer, and screenwriter. He was a prolific writer of advertising jingles and wrote the hit songs "My Ship Is Comin' In", "If Ever I See You Again", and "You Light Up My Life", the latter for the hit film of the same name that he also wrote, directed, and produced. In his later years he became the subject of an investigation after being accused of a series of casting-couch rapes. He was indicted in 2009, but committed suicide on May 22, 2011, before his trial.Julie Dash
Julie Ethel Dash (born October 22, 1952) is an American film director, writer and producer . Dash received her MFA in 1985 at the UCLA Film School and is one of the graduates and filmmakers born out of a time known as the L.A. Rebellion. After she had written and directed several shorts, her 1991 feature Daughters of the Dust became the first full-length film directed by an African-American woman to obtain general theatrical release in the United States.Daughters of the Dust is a fictionalized telling of her father's Gullah family who lived off the coast of the Southeastern United States. The film features black women's stories, striking visuals shot on location and a non-linear narrative. It's included in the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress for its cultural, historical and aesthetic significance." Dash has written two books on Daughters of the Dust—a "making of" history co-written with Toni Cade Bambara and bell hooks, and a sequel, set 20 years after the film's story.
"Daughters of the Dust" was named one of the most significant films of the last 30 years, by IndieWire.Dash has worked in television since the late 1990s. Her television movies include Funny Valentines (1999), Incognito (1999), Love Song (2000), and The Rosa Parks Story (2002), starring Angela Bassett. The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center commissioned Dash to direct Brothers of the Borderland in 2004, as an immersive film exhibit narrated by Oprah Winfrey following the path of women gaining freedom on the Underground Railroad. In 2017, Dash directed episodes of Queen Sugar on the Oprah Winfrey Network.
At the 2019 Sundance Film Festival, it was announced Dash's next project will be a biopic of civil rights icon Angela Davis, to be produced by Lionsgate.LUNA Bar
LUNA Bars are a brand of nutrition bar created by Clif Bar & Company in 1999. The product was the first nutrition bar aimed at women. The brand has expanded to cover nutritional drinks, protein bars, and LUNAFEST, a woman's film festival.Liwayway
Liwayway (Tagalog word meaning "dawn") is a leading Tagalog weekly magazine published in the Philippines since 1922. It contains Tagalog serialized novels, short stories, poetry, serialized comics, essays, news features, entertainment news and articles, and many others. In fact, it is the oldest Tagalog magazine in the Philippines. Its sister publications are Bannawag, Bisaya Magasin, and Hiligaynon.Marianne and Juliane
Marianne and Juliane (German: Die bleierne Zeit; lit. "The Leaden Time" or "Leaden Times"), also called The German Sisters in the United Kingdom, is a 1981 West German film directed by Margarethe von Trotta. The screenplay is a fictionalized account of the true lives of Christiane and Gudrun Ensslin. Gudrun, a member of The Red Army Faction, was found dead in her prison cell in Stammheim in 1977. In the film, Von Trotta depicts the two sisters Juliane (Christine) and Marianne (Gudrun) through their friendship and journey to understanding each other. Marianne and Juliane was von Trotta's third film and solidified her position as a director of the New German Cinema.
Marianne and Juliane also marked the first time that von Trotta worked with Barbara Sukowa. They would go on to work on six more films together.Max Ophüls
Maximillian Oppenheimer (; 6 May 1902 – 26 March 1957), known as Max Ophüls (; German: [ˈɔfʏls]), was a German-born film director who worked in Germany (1931–1933), France (1933–1940 and 1950–1957), and the United States (1947–1950). He made nearly 30 films, the latter ones being especially notable: La Ronde (1950), Le Plaisir (1952), The Earrings of Madame de... (1953) and Lola Montès (1955).Melodrama
A melodrama is a dramatic work in which the plot, which is typically sensational and designed to appeal strongly to the emotions, takes precedence over detailed characterization. Characters are often simply drawn, and may appear stereotyped. Melodramas are typically set in the private sphere of the home, and focus on morality and family issues, love, and marriage, often with challenges from an outside source, such as a "temptress”, an aristocratic villain.
In scholarly and historical musical contexts, melodramas are Victorian dramas in which orchestral music or song was used to accompany the action. The term is now also applied to stage performances without incidental music, novels, movies, television and radio broadcasts. In modern contexts, the term "melodrama" is generally pejorative, as it suggests that the work in question lacks subtlety, character development, or both. By extension, language or behaviour which resembles melodrama is often called melodramatic; this use is nearly always pejorative.Poomalai
Poomalai (lit. Garland of Flowers) is 1965 Indian Tamil-language woman's film, directed by P. Neelakantan and written by M. Karunanidhi. The film was produced by Murasoli Maran under Karunanidhi's production company Meghala Pictures, which also distributed the film. It stars S. S. Rajendran, C. R. Vijayakumari and Anjali Devi, with S. A. Ashokan, Nagesh and Manorama in supporting roles. The film focuses on the title character, a happy-go-lucky girl whose life changes for the worse when she is raped. It was released on 23 October 1965.Portrayal of women in film noir
Film noir is accustomed to fulfilling specific constructions of gender roles in this aesthetically driven cinema style, creating very specific false archetypes for women within the ongoing history of film noir. According to Andrew Spicer in “Film Noir,” the articulation of the patriarchy in film noir is understood as one of the style’s most consistent features, no matter the decade of the film.Psycho-biddy
Psycho-biddy (Also known as Grande Dame Guignol, hagsploitation and hag horror) is a colloquial term for a film subgenre which combines elements of the of the horror thriller and the Woman's Film which conventionally features a formerly-glamorous older woman who has become mentally unbalanced and terrorizes those around her. The genre was inagurated in 1962 with the film What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? and lasted through the mid-1970s. Renata Adler, in her New York Times review for the 1968 film The Anniversary, referred to the genre as "the Terrifying Older Actress Filicidal Mummy genre."Suzana Amaral
Suzana Amaral Rezende (born March 28, 1932) is a Brazilian film director and screenwriter. She is best known for the 1985 film A Hora da Estrela (Hour of the Star).The Housemaid (1960 film)
The Housemaid (하녀, Hanyeo) is a 1960 black-and-white South Korean film. It was directed by Kim Ki-young and starred Lee Eun-shim, Ju Jeung-nyeo and Kim Jin-kyu. It has been described in Koreanfilm.org as a "consensus pick as one of the top three Korean films of all time". This was the first film in Kim's Housemaid trilogy followed by Woman of Fire and Woman of Fire '82. The film was remade in 2010 by director Im Sang-soo.Warsaw Concerto
The Warsaw Concerto is a short work for piano and orchestra by Richard Addinsell, written for the 1941 British film Dangerous Moonlight, which is about the Polish struggle against the 1939 invasion by Nazi Germany. In performance it normally lasts just under ten minutes. The concerto is an example of programme music, representing both the struggle for Warsaw and the romance of the leading characters in the film. It became very popular in Britain during World War II.
The concerto is written in imitation of the style of Sergei Rachmaninoff. It initiated a trend for similar short piano concertos in the Romantic style, which have been dubbed "tabloid concertos".Women in film
Women in film describes the role of women as film directors, actresses, cinematographers, film producers, film critics, and other film industry professions. The work of women in film criticism and scholarship, including feminist film theorists, is also described.
Women have statistically underrepresented in creative positions in the film industry. Most English-language academic study and media coverage focuses on the issue within the US film industry (Hollywood), however inequalities exist in other countries. This underrepresentation has been called the "celluloid ceiling", a variant on the employment discrimination term "glass ceiling".
Women have always had a presence in film acting, but have consistently been underrepresented, and on average significantly less well paid. On the other hand, many key roles in filmmaking were for many decades done almost entirely by men, such as directors and cinematographers. In modern times, women have made inroads and made contributions to many of these fields.
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