Archive | Country Matters

Fairy Tale, Cautionary Tale: ‘Mustang’

I keep thinking about “Mustang,” which opens this week in limited release. It has been described as a Turkish-Syrian “Virgin Suicides” but that comparison would be much more apt if Sofia Coppola had a penchant for female liberation rather than pink Converse. About a group of orphaned sisters (age 12-16) who are imprisoned in their grandmother’s home after getting caught playing with local boys, this is a horror movie about patriarchy on one level and the fiercest of fairy tales on another. Here is the text of a talk I delivered about it last weekend to the Westchester Cinema Club.

Really it’s impossible to discuss “Mustang” without discussing its director. Deniz Gamze Ergüven is a 37-year old-woman raised in Turkey and France. She identifies as a French film director though, and, indeed, though this is set in Turkey with a Turkish cast and in Turkish language, it is technically a French production. The French woman Alice Winocour is her co-screen-writer, and Ergüven counts among her mentors the legendary French director Olivier Assayas, who’s done such extraordinary films as “Summer Hours” and “Clouds of Sils Maria,” which is one of my favorite films of 2015.

That said, this film is very much inspired by the restrictiveness of Turkish life for women. When Deniz was 10, she had the same experience as the girls—she was caught playing on the shoulders of boys and was severely punished for it. As she’s said in interviews, Turkey was one of the countries to give women the vote; now they can barely get abortions and nearly everything coded as feminine is reduced to a shameful reference to sex. Continue Reading →

The Courage of Intimacy: ‘Carol’

Walking out of “Carol,” director Todd Haynes’s newest film, I had to laugh about our need to sneer at the past no matter how much we fetishize it. Progress is elliptical, not linear, though the LGBT community can be forgiven for temporarily forgetting this fact. This year alone we’ve achieved civil rights inconceivable only decades before–when AIDS patients were treated by the government as if they’d earned their fate, and simply being gay could deny us of our legal right to work, live, find shelter, and, of course, love.

Amid this unprecedented groundswell of mainstream acceptance comes Haynes’s adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s 1952 eponymous novel about a love affair between the titular married socialite and Therese, a shopgirl twenty years her junior. Originally published under a pseudonym and with a different title, the book not only reflects the obstacles facing a lesbian couple in the mid-twentieth century but the holistic confusion facing any woman coming of age – when the world claims her body and sexuality before she’s grown comfortable with them herself. Students of queer and feminist literature have long prized the novel’s precision and defiant optimism, and for good reason. It is a quiet tour de force that remains radical today. Continue Reading →

Paris, Our Sister

I’ve been awake for hours, early even for me except it’s not really my time I’m on but the time of the Parisians, many of whom will not be able to wake up from this nightmare for months to come. We longtime New Yorkers have a sense of how this feels. But each time the insouciance of daily life is replaced by an unanticipated human-made disaster of this scale, the nature of the living nightmare is horribly unique. Only one thing remains the same: that there is no true rest for a long, long time.  I am sending love, so much love–the energetic equivalent of a cool hand upon the forehead. At this rawest of hours (at every hour, really) it is everything that we can give.

"All, everything I understand, I understand only because I love."
― Leo Tolstoy