IN THE CINÉMA CLUB OF… MARY BRONSTEIN
Combining a precise visual style with keen insights on female friendship, Mary Bronstein’s directorial debut, Yeast, quickly distinguished her as a singular voice amid the micro-budget filmmaking boom that swept America during the aughts—what is often referred to as “mumblecore.” The dark comedy’s shrewd commentary on young adulthood, frenetic camerawork, and fondness for ambiguity can also be thought of as tenets of today’s most cherished cinema, evidence of which lies in Yeast’s resurgence and its recent string of sold-out screenings in Los Angeles, London and New York.
To coincide with our screening of Yeast, the indie filmmaker shared five films that have haunted her since her teenage years.
SPLENDOR IN THE GRASS, Elia Kazan, 1961
I love every film written by or based on a play by William Inge. His specialty is the emotional turmoil and darkness lurking behind average American doors and he is criminally underappreciated and under celebrated. This film is about the pain, mental unrest, and devastating consequences that society's confusing, hypocritical messages about sex cause for both young women AND young men. It feels impressively relevant and new 62 years later. Amazing appearance by Barbara Loden as a doomed flapper.
WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE?, Robert Aldrich, 1962
Bette Davis and Joan Crawford both give performances so gut-wrenching, emotionally unhinged, risky, and dripping with competition that the film could have been successful as just the two of them on an empty soundstage. But Aldrich is a genius here also, turning a decaying Hollywood mansion into an entire, nightmarish world and elevating this psychodrama to surreal and expressive levels. It is high camp that will also break your heart.
THE WATCHER IN THE WOODS, John Hough, 1980
The first horror film I ever saw. It was made by Disney so unsuspecting parents popped this in at sleepovers through the 80s. We were terrified. I loved it even though mirrors and white nightgowns became scary. Many of the practical effects in here continue to inspire me and an elderly Bette Davis is a gift of frightening camp. Remember: if you feel compelled to name something Nerak...don't do it!!!!
WELCOME TO THE DOLLHOUSE, Todd Solondz, 1995
This film came out when I was 16 and it was the first independent film I saw in a theater. I could not believe what I was seeing, it was that different from the movies I had been exposed to previously. I went again the next day. The film is about the absolute emotional hell of middle school and the painful, shameful experience of being a severely bullied, outcasted, unattractive prepubescent girl, with all the dreams, feelings, and desires of those deemed worthy of the world because the universe happened to smile upon them. If you were a friendless loser in middle school like me, your heart will completely implode with pain and sadness for 11 year old Weiner Dog at the same time that you'll laugh from embarrassing recognition of yourself and your former enemies. In spite of it's stylishness and camp, the film is so emotionally true that it still boggles my mind that a man wrote and directed this.
WHO’S THE CABOOSE?, Sam Seder, 1997
Starring Sarah Silverman and featuring almost everyone on the late-90s alt comedy scene, this movie is a hilarious DIY parody of the confusion, lies, and hostility Hollywood has in store for the bright-eyed young NYC artist. I have been in the meetings depicted here, no lies told. Cheap production and the energy of a group of young, pre-fame comedians who are already over it but obviously want to be a part of the thing they are making fun of IS late 90s gen-x.