These selections feature strong performances from actresses portraying characters as diverse as an Israeli world leader during a time of war and a would-be British psychic. While the selections currently playing in the theaters are slim, the coming months look very promising with films and performances from female talent that are garnering positive reviews and buzz. Highlights include films from directors Sofia Coppola and Ava DuVernay to performances from actresses Emma Stone and Lily Gladstone. Autumn can’t come soon enough.
GOLDA (2023, Playing in Select Theaters): Golda Meir was the first—and remains the only woman—elected as Prime Minister of Israel, a leadership that proved pivotal during a nineteen-day war with Egypt that almost led to the collapse of the country. The film focuses on her actions during this crisis as she strategizes with the all-male Israeli military and navigates international diplomacy in her attempt to win support from then Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. Helen Mirren does an admirable job of capturing both the fierce strength of her character and her humanity as she contends with guilt that she could have done more to prevent the invasion and the subsequent loss of Israeli lives. Her fragile health is portrayed effectively as she undergoes medical treatment in a morgue stacked with the bodies of fallen soldiers highlighting the horrors of war. But as the film documents her personal and public crises, it also portrays her as a masterful female leader who never loses her nerve and manages to accomplish the near impossible: negotiating the terms of a surrender that would later pave the way for the historic and enduring peace treaty between Israel and Egypt.
SEANCE ON A WET AFTERNOON (1964, Amazon Prime, Criterion, TCM): This film centers on a British psychic who devises a scheme with her husband to kidnap a small girl so that she can pretend to help the police solve the crime and gain fame. The plan goes about as well as can be expected. Kim Stanley brilliantly conveys her characters growing mental derangement as her plan unravels rendering her both frightening and sympathetic. Kim Stanley’s performance is particularly significant given the lack of decent roles for female performers during that era. Her standout performance earned her an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress.
THE ORIGIN OF EVIL (Playing in Select Theaters): Just as I had given up on seeing any decent films on the big screen with a feminist theme until later in the season, this French thriller arrived to save me from the formulaic studio dreck currently playing in local cinemas. This riveting film is a pleasure to watch as the intrigue unfolds revealing twisted layers to the plot and featuring female characters who aren’t always what they appear to be. The film is a portrayal of the moral vacuousness of the fabulously wealthy but also of the lying and scheming that the less fortunate will pursue to join their rarified ranks. And most fascinating of all is its study-and indictment-of the patriarchal system that causes so much misery to both the men who hold power and the women they wield it over like a weapon to control them. Despite its bleak view of the power structure and the misery that inevitably ensues, the film also shows there is another way of living that could bring contentment and harmony to women so long as their lives aren’t dominated by a misogynistic and violent man .
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