Tina, Ammonite, Midnight Cowboy and others – Screen Time March 2021

Through no conscious planning, March turned out to be a time for extraordinary women, at least as far as film-viewing was concerned. The month’s first movie – Pieces Of A Woman (dir. Kornel Mundruczo) – certainly didn’t shy away from placing the female experience at the centre of its focus, but it was a tediously unconvincing affair, with one of the most laughable childbirth sequences of recent years. The female with whom I watched it doubted whether anyone involved in the production had ever stepped inside a delivery room. 

Far more interesting female characters were to be found in Ammonite (Francis Lee’s absorbing but ultimately unsatisfying follow-up to the superb God’s Own Country), Judas And The Black Messiah (dir. Shaka King; in which ‘femaleness’ was presented as a much-needed tonic to the extreme testosterone posturing on display), Roman Polanski’s Chinatown (looking resplendent in a new 4K version) and Neil Jordan’s The Crying Game (still as gripping and original as it was in the 90s). 

There was a notable and pointed absence of women in End Of The Century (dir. Lucio Castro; a touching tale which works despite expecting viewers to accept an astonishing bout of amnesia on the part of its main character) and John Schlesinger’s classic Midnight Cowboy. This was the first time I watched the exploits of Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight’s hapless drifters, and I had no trouble understanding why the film has remained near the top of critics’ Best Of lists for decades. It’s a moving examination of fate, friendship and falseness. 

One of the owners of the official Extraordinary Woman trademark, Tina Turner, chewed up the screen in characteristically assertive fashion in Tina, a brand new bio-doc by Daniel Lindsay & T J Martin, made with the star’s consent and – crucially – direct involvement. It may be a slyly self-congratulatory piece of work, and it doesn’t add much to what we already knew of the Triumphant Tina story, but it’s a fantastic excuse to turn up the volume and enjoy some impassioned performances from one of the true queens of music.  

Finally, although the month’s best film, Martyr (dir. Mazen Khaled) placed a group of young men at the core of its plot, it was arguably the women in the story who were its emotional heart. Set on an ordinary day which culminates in a tragically out-of-the-ordinary event, this was a haunting, unashamedly non-realistic piece of work (frequently breaking into near-surreal sequences) that refused to be pinned down into any particular style or genre. Its depiction of a group of women expressing grief through dance stayed with me for days.   

Dariush   

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