There’s only a smattering of films directed, written, and about women on offer this upcoming month, but there’s a few gems in the mix, as well as a great deal of variety in quality and subject matter.
Valentine’s Day month will see 2014’s first studio release by a female filmmaker: Shana Feste‘s Endless Love. Feste previously directed the Gwyneth Paltrow vehicle Country Strong and the Susan Sarandon co-starrer The Greatest. Co-written by Gossip Girl and Smash writer Joshua Safran, Endless Love looks like it could be this decade’s The Notebook.
There’s only one other woman-directed release next month: writer-director Jenee LaMarque’s indie comedy The Pretty One. Zoe Kazan (Ruby Sparks) stars as a woman who takes over her recently deceased twin’s identity. That’s a dark premise, but the film ultimately aims for a heart-warming revelation: our protagonist learns she doesn’t always have to be “the pretty one.”
A pair of female trailblazers have documentaries dedicated to them (by women directors). Theater legend Elaine Stritch performs and opens up about her long and accomplished life in Chiemi Karasawa’s Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me, while ballet icon Tanaquil le Clercq is given her due in Nancy Buirski’s Afternoon of a Faun.
A pair of prestige pictures from Europe should satisfy quality-seekers. After 4 Days, 3 Months and 2 Days and Beyond the Hills, Romania brings yet another powerful drama about women in trouble. Child’s Pose finds a middle-aged woman consumed by obsessive motherly love when her thirtysomething ne’er-do-well son is accused of manslaughter. Germany’s Two Lives, co-directed and co-written by Judith Kaufmann, finds a German-Norwegian woman in 1980 coming to grips with World War II atrocities involving her parents.
On a lower-brow note, Vampire Academy arrives early in February. The premise is beyond silly — human-vampire hybrids fighting against purebred bloodsuckers — but for what it’s worth, it’s from the director of Mean Girls and the writer of Heathers.
All descriptions are from IMDb unless indicated otherwise.
Afternoon of a Faun: Tanaquil le Clercq (doc) – Directed by Nancy Buirski
Of all the great ballerinas, Tanaquil Le Clercq may have been the most transcendent. With a body unlike any before hers, she mesmerized viewers and choreographers alike — her elongated, race-horse physique became the new prototype for the great George Balanchine. Her unique style, humor and authenticity redefined ballet for all dancers who followed. Amazingly, she was the muse to not one great artist but two; both George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins loved her as a dancer and a woman. Balanchine married her and Robbins created his famous version of Afternoon of a Faun for Tanny. Tanaquil Le Clercq was the foremost dancer of her day until it suddenly all stopped. On a tour of Europe, she was struck down by polio and paralyzed. She never danced again.
The Pretty One – Written and Directed by Jenee LaMarque
When a woman’s identical but prettier twin sister dies, the woman assumes her sister’s identity, moving into her apartment and the big city.
A Field in England – Written by Amy Jump
Three soldiers who, fleeing from a Civil War, escape through an overgrown field and are ambushed by two dangerous men, who make them search the field for treasures.
Rose Hathaway is a Dhampir, half human/vampire, guardians of the Moroi, peaceful, mortal vampires living discretely within our world. Her legacy is to protect the Moroi from bloodthirsty, immortal Vampires, the Strigoi. This is her story.
By day Abby Russell is a dedicated nurse, someone you wouldn’t hesitate to trust your life with. But by night, her real work begins — using her smoldering sexuality, she lures cheating men to their brutal deaths and exposes them for who they really are. When a younger nurse starts to suspect Abby’s actions and compromises her master plan, Abby must find a way to outsmart her long enough to bring the cheater you’d least expect to justice.
Endless Love – Directed and Co-Written by Shana Feste
The story of a privileged girl and a charismatic boy, whose instant desire sparks a love affair made only more reckless by parents trying to keep them apart.
About Last Night – Co-Written by Leslye Headland
New love for two couples as they journey from the bar to the bedroom and are eventually put to the test in the real world.
Easy Money: Hard to Kill – Co-Written by Maria Karlsson
J.W. (Joel Kinnaman), the promising business student who became an organized coke smuggler in Easy Money, is serving hard time in prison and struggling to get back on an honest path. There are glimmers of hope in his life — some venture capitalists are interested in a new piece of trading software he’s developed, and he’s made peace with an old enemy while behind bars. This all proves to be an illusion. On leave from prison, and back in contact with his former gang, J.W. learns that once you’ve walked in the shoes of a criminal, there just may be no going back.
A recent college graduate who believes she’s destined to be a great poet winds up working for an adult book store.
A sharply crafted family thriller, Child’s Pose pivots on a riveting performance by Luminita Gheorghiu (4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, Beyond the Hills) as a steely, upper-class Bucharest architect determined to keep her thirty-something deadbeat son out of jail after a deadly car crash. How far will she go to convince the police, eyewitnesses and even the victim’s family that her son was not recklessly speeding? A spellbinding drama of social commentary and psychological realism, this caustic look into the corrupt heart of the Eastern European bourgeoisie twists into a brilliantly ambiguous study of obsessive motherly love. (Rotten Tomatoes)
Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me (doc) – Directed by Chiemi Karasawa
What does it mean to be a performing artist – first, last and always? Broadway legend Elaine Stritch can answer that. At 87, Stritch is still here, dominating the stage in her one woman cabaret act, torturing Alec Baldwin on 30 Rock, giving us her take on aging, her struggle with alcohol and diabetes, and the fear of leaving the follow spot behind. In stolen moments from her corner room at the Carlyle, and on breaks from her tour and work, candid reflections about her life are punctuated with rare archival footage, words from friends (Hal Prince, George C. Wolfe, Nathan Lane, Cherry Jones and John Turturro) and photographs from her personal collection. By turns bold, hilarious and achingly poignant, the journey connects Stritch’s present to her past, and an inspiring portrait of a one-of-a-kind survivor emerges.
Pompeii – Co-Written by Janet Scott Batchler
A slave turned gladiator finds himself in a race against time to save his true love, who has been betrothed to a corrupt Roman Senator. As Mount Vesuvius erupts, he must fight to save his beloved as Pompeii crumbles around him.
Set in the lower echelons of 1860s Paris, Therese Raquin, a sexually repressed, beautiful young woman, is trapped in a loveless marriage to her sickly cousin, Camille, by her domineering aunt, Madame Raquin. Therese spends her days confined behind the counter of a small shop and her evenings watching Madame play dominoes with an eclectic group. After she meets her husband’s alluring friend, Laurent, she embarks on an illicit affair that leads to tragic consequences.
Holy Ghost People
On the trail of her missing sister, Charlotte enlists the help of Wayne, an ex-Marine and alcoholic, to infiltrate the Church of One Accord — a community of snake-handlers who risk their lives seeking salvation in the Holy Ghost.
Two Lives – Co-Directed and Co-Written by Judith Kaufmann
The German film follows Katrine, a woman who was the child of a Norwegian woman and German occupation soldier during WWII, whose life is going well until her lawyer asks her and her mother to witness in a trial against the Norwegian state on behalf of her children. When she resists this proposition, a plethora of secrets begin to surface, jeopardizing the well-being of Katrine and her family. (Indiewire)