Vivid and Zesty: Old-School Feminist Emancipation

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The Girls
New Yorker
Old-school feminist emancipation from Swedish-star -turned–New Waver Mai Zetterling. Three actresses (Bibi Andersson, Harriet Andersson, and Gunnel Lindblom) set out on a theater tour performing Aristophanes' Lysistrata and come to realize that the ancient women- halting-war-by- withholding-sex comedy isn't all that farcical and speaks sharply to modern times. In 1968, Vietnam never has to be mentioned, but the gender combat is unrelenting. Shot in black-and-white so high contrast that black figures are often subsumed by the whiteness of rooms or snowy fields, Zetterling's film is vivid, zesty, and sometimes sophomoric in its post-Godardian disjunctures, down to a typical daydream sequence in which an audience of irate women pelt movie images of Stalin, LBJ, and Moshe Dayan with pies. As bullhorn metafilms go, it's rousing and endearingly evocative of its day. Supp'd by a 1996 feature doc in which the gorgeous troika of Svenskfilm royalty reconvene at the recently dead director's house for an autumnal confab and re-evaluation of their communal experience making The Girls almost 30 years earlier.
 
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