-Sex and the City by ( I had to google this) Michael Patrick King
- I Am the Very Beautiful by Shyamal Karmakar
- Sherman's March - Ross McElwee
This is a rambling and maybe unclear post because I'm still sorting through the jumble of thoughts in my head.
Again it felt to me that while there's a cliche about how women are obsessed with love and romance (thanks for nothing Byron) they don't or can't seem to create works around this. Obviously I am not talking about Mills and Boons - nor am I dismissing them. That's just a separate discussion. I mean that Sherman's March and I am the Very Beautiful are obviously abiding, strong, resonant films about love and men - this is a very masculine perspective (and I am not in complete agreement that the women in this film - Ranu in IATVB and the 5-6 in SM are allowed to construct their own realities alone without the filmmaker imposing theirs over them. That sort of goes hand in hand with the myth of verite - which both of the films use masterfully. In fact the charm of both films for me lies in the fact that they are so strongly the filmmakers' constructions and it renders the filmmaker vulnerable and reveals for me very intriguing things in a way that involves me. I feel this way also about Hanif Kureshi's The Black Album - a very male book but transparently so in which it's almost as if got an intimate entry into a man's mind, otherwise an area of shall we say, speculation).
And then there's Sex and the City. I must say that while I was a bit leery of the class aspect and a little floral feminism thing going on there, I also enjoyed the first two seasons because they were funny and had something recognisable in them. But also because they were funny and very well written. It was kind of nice that there was a space where love and sex could be spoken of simultaneously although not necessarily together/in a causally related way and women had jobs as well as breakfast and all along you could indulge in the ultimate female pornography - role play through clothes.
But the film! When Carrie gets stood up I felt her shock and pain and well I just thought - yeah, that's what you get for wanting to marry Big! When she runs to be with Miranda on New Year's Eve while Samantha and Smith make out and Charlotte is playing happy families I really really thought the film would end. But no - it went on through the whole excruciating process of Big sending apologies and copying other people's love letters and finally Carrie marries him again and just forgives and forgets because "it wasn't logical, it was emotional."
Anyway this is not a rant about SATC as much as just wondering why women aren't making work about love which is more personal and honest. I know what stops me for instance. Like I've always wanted to make a sort of female Hi-Fidelity, going back to all the men I'd ever been with to ask what and why happened. I don't do it because it seems that I'll get laughed at - which is to say, I'll be exposed for being a loser, inviting comments about my appearance and my various shortcomings. I shouldn't care about it would be one way of thinking about it. But as Carrie says, it's not logical it's emotional. But the fact is, the fear of it never really being listened to for what it is ends up making the artist search for more disguised forms of this expression. If a woman made a film like Sherman's March, with that Woody Allen style voice over, people would call it self indulgent and self pitying. But this figure of the commitment phobic, self pitying, indecisive man is a convention and it's supposed to be honest and sweet.
I marvel at how in SATC Big is allowed to be, well, a guy. That's just how he is. I panicked about getting married so I didn't land up at the altar (oh that's ok, you know, men aren't able to cope with feelings so go on, forgive him). (Of course the entire subtext of SATC is that it's Carrie's fault because she wants a big wedding that naughty spendthrift). And the way too that both men in the documentaries mentioned above are also just allowed to be themselves even when that self causes hurt to the women around them. Those films are gentler to the women in the film and the sense of mystery that these women hold for the men filming them is a touching sort of filter through which we too see the narrative.
In contrast the women in SATC are constantly examining themselves, figuring out where they went wrong, trying to fix themselves ( so they can have men really but well, why not perhaps).
Of course one can and should point out that SATC is not written or directed by a woman. The original series was co-written by the woman author of the book Candace Bushnell but the film is written by a man. However SATC has that veneer of being about a life women have written for themselves. You can see that in the way groups of women come in to watch the film, giggle a bit too loudly at the generic chick culture jokes while they don't get the NYC references, but eventually lapse in energy. However their idea when they enter the cinema is to claim this film as something written by them in a notional sense.
Of course no one identifies with Samantha the one woman who makes a non-coupled choice in the film. Because Samantha is supposedly a slut however much they may celebrate her wild ways.
Anyhow - if someone knows work by women that's about love and in English - the anger, pain, sensuality and which is not written by Colette or Anais Nin (how faithfully they get trotted out everytime) please let me know, I am curious to read and think of this more. I think there's stuff in other languages which must be good - Krishna Sobti's Dil-o-Danish comes to mind though I've only read it because it is in English translation while I can't read others which aren't.But the work in English I am more curious about. Similarly if there's more films you know that I could watch that traverse this territory of men and love. I'm looking more for non-fiction than fiction but both would do really at this point.
Meanwhile there's also another film battling inside SATC - one that vaguely reminded me of Dil-o-Danish, in which when Kutumb, the wife, rails against her husband having a mistress she's told to stop being ridiculous. Women aren't supposed to consider men so important. The important things are the clothes, the jewels, the house, the kids. In SATC too Carrie says while at the NY Fashion Week - "I don't know if it was because it was just us 4 together or because it was the fashion. But for the first time in a long time I felt like my real self." And later she meets Big again only because she goes to bring back her pair of $525 Manolos which she left behind. It's very clear where the real love story lies here and the timid celebrations of it while noteworthy aren't nearly enough.