by Molly Haskell ‧ RELEASE DATE: Jan. 1, 1997
A collection of previously published profiles and essays by the feminist film critic (From Reverence to Rape, 1974, etc.) that offer offbeat, compelling approaches and keen observations but leave the reader yearning for more argument. Of the profiles, the most farseeing is on Doris Day, who, Haskell says, should be regarded more seriously than she has been for her ability to capture 1950s-style ambition and neurosis in films like The Man Who Knew Too Much and Love Me or Leave Me. Examinations of Gloria Swanson and John Wayne are also satisfying, though for some Wayne is less Haskell's ""father figure . . . who made the world safe for us so that we could explore it on our own terms"" than a more visceral archetype of male sexuality. ""Two Protofeminist Heroines"" reminds us of the sexual equality that was possible before the sexual revolution, as seen in two Howard Hawks movies (His Girl Friday and Man's Favorite Sport). Nice takes on literary figures and current social/artistic trends--Austen's Emma, the superabundance of film nudity, the uses of makeup (not to deceive but ""to create something magnificent"") round out the book. Most invigorating is Haskell's introduction, which spins out many ripe observations: the great authority of female stars despite a ""tyrannical"" studio system; the forces that still impede gender parity (denying and repressing ""the matriarchy into which every child is born""); woman's uncertain place in the No-Man's-Land stretching between film studies and feminism. Haskell is appealingly casual and urbane in this section: Freud, Jane Russell, Nietzsche, and others are tossed in the air. Alas, after 15 pages, the rhetorical balls are gathered up and the articles, thorough but less prickly and wide-ranging, begin. Haskell chooses the ""devious"" route of essays rather than a polemic because, she asserts, there is no one right ""theory"" of film, feminism, or culture--a fair argument but one that leaves her work here feeling somewhat lacking.
Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1997
Page Count: 208
Publisher: Oxford Univ.
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 1996
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