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lesbian film dissertation help

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#1 of 30 OFFLINE   nikkif99uk


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Posted April 13 2009 - 12:33 PM

Ok so I have decided on the format of my dissertation, now I just need links to sources, books you may know of, or any angles I should look at for the following Part 1/Introduction will look at what 'is' lesbianism? History of lesbianism including how it was never illegal and differed from homosexuality as it was considered not to exist. The rest of the section will look at stereotypes and how lesbians were often demonized as sadistic/predatory (Killing Of Sister George), suicidal (Children’s Hour), vampires (Vampyres/Vampiros Lesbos) or follow Butch/Femme stereotypes (Bound) Part 2 will look at how sex scenes in independent lesbian films are ‘lovemaking rather than ‘warm up for threesome’ or exploitation for a male audience and how this may be due to the films being independently funded and not having to please a major Hollywood Production company, also if there is any difference if the director is male or female. I will use examples from Desert Hearts, Claire Of the Moon to show lesbian lovemaking and examples from Bound and Wild Things of mainstream portrayals of lesbian sex, possibly others. Part 3 will look at how many lesbian independent films have happy endings, as many mainstream films leave lesbians with less than happy endings, being murdered, committing suicide or turning straight for the male lead. The section will also look at how many of the films appropriate conventions from the romance/romantic comedy genre. The examples I will use include Imagine Me & You, When Night Is Falling and April’s Shower, pilossibly others Also looking to use examples from DEBS, Girl Play, Out At the Wedding, But I'm A Cheerleader, Nina's Heavenly Delights, Saving Face, Chutney Popcorn etc Are there any other films that would be good to use? Please get everyone you know to comment, thanks

#2 of 30 OFFLINE   Michael Elliott

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Posted April 13 2009 - 12:47 PM

If you want the real stuff then you should watch some of the cult items that try and bush boundaries. Stuff like Franco's VAMPYROS LESBOS and THE FEMALE VAMPIRE would be your best bets, although you should be warned ahead of time about their content (never mind whether or not you take to their "style"). There's also a series called INDIE SEX, which takes a look at some of the subjects you're wanting to know about. The four-part docs are good but lack A LOT of information like the Euro films I mentioned above and countless others.

#3 of 30 OFFLINE   ahollis



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Posted April 13 2009 - 03:05 PM

Try Personal Best and The Fox. The Fox has not had a DVD release so you will have to hunt for it. It is a strange film and was actually confiscated in MS during it's release in 1967 for depiction of two women living together being obscene.
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#4 of 30 OFFLINE   Cameron Yee

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Posted April 13 2009 - 03:53 PM

Check out the docu The Celluloid Closet. Rebecca was touched on regarding part one.

#5 of 30 OFFLINE   Simon Howson

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Posted April 13 2009 - 04:03 PM

You MUST see the Swedish film Show Me Love.

A lot of people think Heavenly Creatures is interesting, because the relationship is never labeled as a lesbian affair. It's an independent film, but it doesn't really have a happy ending.

I think Black Widow is a more interesting film, because it takes a traditional male relationship between a crook and a detective, and makes it a female one.

#6 of 30 OFFLINE   Michael Reuben

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Posted April 13 2009 - 04:23 PM

You'll want to take a look at High Art, but I'll leave it up to you where it fits into your outline. It would probably be a mistake if you didn't at least become familiar with the five seasons of Showtime's The L Word. Even though those episodes aren't technically "movies", they're still a milestone in the depiction of lesbianism on film, and it was a female-driven enterprise.
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#7 of 30 OFFLINE   chas speed

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Posted April 13 2009 - 04:31 PM

I remember seeing The Fox on TV, but it was a few years ago. You're right, it's a strange film. "Don't Deliver us from Evil" is a film you might take a look at (you can rent it on Netflix). It was VERY LOOSELY based on the Parker/Hulme case that Heavenly Creatures was based on. It's worth looking at just for the ending. You also might want to look at the Grayson Hall character in "Night of the Iguana". The two hitchikers in "Five Easy Pieces" (one played by Tony Basil) is interesting in the film didn't really seem to draw attention to the fact that they were lesbians. "The Boston Strangler" also has an early screen lesbian couple.

#8 of 30 OFFLINE   Jacqui


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Posted April 13 2009 - 04:53 PM

Mädchen in Uniform (1931)

An early German film, one of the first to take a look at lesbian attachments/feelings.

Also try

Sister My Sister (1994)

#9 of 30 OFFLINE   JulianK


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Posted April 13 2009 - 10:20 PM

Robert Wise's The Haunting's often cited as an important film for - amongst other things - its depiction of lesbianism.

#10 of 30 OFFLINE   Simon Howson

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Posted April 13 2009 - 10:43 PM

What about the school teacher in The Birds (1963) who seems to be a BIT TOO interested in Tippi Hedren. She suffers a tragic fate too.

#11 of 30 OFFLINE   Peter McM

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Posted April 14 2009 - 01:39 AM

In part 1 you may also wish to examine the Catherine Tramell/Roxy relationship in 1992's Basic Instinct. Remember the outcry from the lesbian community over that one?
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#12 of 30 OFFLINE   Cees Alons

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Posted April 15 2009 - 04:57 AM

The Color Purple (1985), Steven Spielberg, has not been mentioned yet. You should consider it, and it's a mainstream film. And it ends "well". Cees PS.: Oh, and for the sake of terminology in your dissertation: lesbian is homosexual. C.

#13 of 30 OFFLINE   David_B_K


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Posted April 15 2009 - 03:09 PM

Posted by nikkif99uk:

Along the Indie line, John Sayles' Lianna, from 1983 might be interesting for a film about a lesbian directed by a man.

#14 of 30 OFFLINE   LisaDoris


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Posted April 16 2009 - 07:22 AM

You might want to check out Go Fish (1994). Indie, lovemaking, and happy ending.

#15 of 30 OFFLINE   MielR


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Posted April 16 2009 - 08:29 AM

The Hunger (1983- Catherine Deneuve, Susan Sarandon)


#16 of 30 OFFLINE   CraigF



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Posted April 16 2009 - 09:17 AM

I presume, from the way you've laid out your dissertation, that "lesbian film" is really "lesbians in film". Perhaps, in the "recommendations for further research" section, you could suggest a specialisation in films made/written by lesbians, which do not necessarily have any lesbians in them. Kind of different but overlapping with your Part 2...

#17 of 30 OFFLINE   Professor Echo

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Posted April 16 2009 - 10:35 AM

Nikki, you should without a doubt check out a 1931 independent film, later acquired by RKO, entitled MILLIE. It features a VERY happy lesbian couple played by Joan Blondell and real life lesbian role model Lilyan Tashman. I believe it is the first film portrayal of a lesbian couple and there is even a scene with the two of them in a queen size bed wearing pajamas and talking about their day. It's public domain and available from Alpha and Roan. Let me know if you would like me to send you a copy.

DRACULA'S DAUGHTER from 1936 features a scene of blatant lesbian lust which managed to slip by the censors in the post-code era. It's available on Universal DVD.

I would also recommend THE KILLING OF SISTER GEORGE from 1968, which, if I'm not mistaken, features the first lesbian induced orgasm on screen in a mainstream release. It was from that rare time when adult subject matter was featured in major studio productions and getting an X rating, which it did, signified that it was an adult film, not that it was a stigma for pornography. This title is available on DVD from MGM.

To his discredit, Spielberg removed just about all of the lesbian subtext from the novel THE COLOR PURPLE because, as he stated at the time, it made him "uncomfortable." There is no doubt grist for your dissertation in that fact.

As a film historian I have studied this subject in depth and have more recommendations, but don't want to clutter up this board. PM me if you want more ideas. Posted Image

#18 of 30 OFFLINE   Mark Zimmer

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Posted April 16 2009 - 11:09 AM

Second THE HUNGER. Try the ILSA movies too, or the entire Women in Prison subgenre---a bunch of Jess Franco's movies in that area are available on DVD, and they often feature predatory lesbians.

#19 of 30 OFFLINE   Derek Miner

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Posted April 16 2009 - 11:43 AM

CHASING AMY courts some controversy because of the lesbian character's willingness to enter into a relationship with a man. Sometimes Kevin Smith's dialogue gets raunchy just to be raunchy, but there's some real meat in the sex talk between the lesbian woman and the straight guy and at least the writing paints the characters as thoughtful and believable. The script was vetted by Guinevere Turner, co-writer and co-star of the previously mentioned GO FISH. It's also interesting to note that Smith's view of homosexuality is colored by the fact that his brother is gay, showing a little more heart than a lot of the broad comedies that make cheap offensive gay jokes. KISSING JESSICA STEIN is a film that I ended up liking a lot even though the previews annoyed me to no end. The story is about a woman fed up with men who tries dating a lesbian. It straddles the line between indie and studio fare. It was written by the two female stars, but directed by a man.
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#20 of 30 OFFLINE   Cameron Yee

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Posted April 16 2009 - 12:50 PM

Saving Face From Netflix: Dutiful daughter Wil (Michelle Krusied) sidesteps her mother's (Joan Chen) attempts to marry her off in Alice Wu's romantic comedy set in New York. At 28, Wil's the old maid of her traditional Chinese family, so there's no way she can tell them about her budding romance with Vivian (Lynn Chen). But there's no avoiding mom's meddling matchmaking when she shows up on Wil's doorstep looking for a place to stay.

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