Women's Work

Akerman's Histoires d'Amerique, reputed to be her least successful film (it wasn't available for screening), is a compendium of stories from the Yiddish press recounted by Jewish performers and filmed in various New York locations during the late '80s. If you've never seen an Akerman film, this is probably not the place to begin, but I'm glad of the opportunity to fill in the gap.

An unsparingly bleak and powerful film, Holland's Angry Harvest probes the relationship between Poles and Jews that figures crucially in the filmmaker's own life. Set in Poland during the Nazi occupation, it's a two-hander about an Austrian Jewish woman who escapes from a train on the way to the death camps and a Polish Catholic farmer who hides her in his basement and becomes emotionally and sexually involved with her. Differences of class and religion, plus the power play implicit in the captor/captive situation, fuel a violent sadomasochistic attachment. Brutal but remarkably lucid, Angry Harvest lays bare the dynamics of Catholic anti-Semitism and the erotics of hatred and contempt.

Ning Ying's On the Beat follows a squad of cops as they make their nightly patrols of a Beijing neighborhood, rounding up scofflaws and confiscating illegal pets. A fictional film with a cast of nonprofessional actors, On the Beat has the feel of urban ethnography. Ning's deadpan, but unmistakably caustic, script and direction capture the contradictions between the communist ideal, the bureaucratic state, and everyone's pell-mell desires.

Eye contact: Perez and Jean-Baptiste in The 24 Hour Woman
Adger W. Cowans
Eye contact: Perez and Jean-Baptiste in The 24 Hour Woman

Details

The 24 Hour Woman
Directed by Nancy Savoca
Written by Savoca and Richard Guay
A TSG release
Opens January 29

'The Feminine Eye: Twenty Years of Women's Cinema'
At the BAM Rose Cinemas
January 28 through February 7

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This is a series with very few clunkers. Among the other not-to-be-missed films: Moufida Tlatli's Tunisian mother-daughter melodrama The Silences of the Palace; Marleen Gorris's brilliant, radical-feminist courtroom drama A Question of Silence; Julie Dash's hauntingly beautiful African-diaspora tale Daughters of the Dust; Marta Mezaros's stinging critique of the Hungarian communist state Diary for My Children; and Ulrike Ottinger's Joanna d'Arc of Mongolia, memorable for its snowy windswept vistas and for the last images of Delphine Seyrig recorded on film.

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