She’s a dude of a filmmaker…sigh

Two recent articles in the New York Times caught my eye. Michelle Orange’s piece about Lynn Shelton’s film HUMPDAY, “She’s a Director Who’s Just another Dude” and “Action!” Manohla Dargis’s profile of Kathryn Bigelow and her film THE HURT LOCKER.  Both articles made much of the fact that these female directors are working with male stories and male actors. Dargis describes how Bigelow “steered clear of the industry ghetto to which female directors are usually consigned, bypassing the dreaded chick flick for stories and archetypes traditionally if reductively seen as the province of men.”  Orange quoted one of HUMPDAY’s actors Mark Duplass who described “…her greater affinity for men”: “You know those girls who are closer with dudes, in general? She’s got a little bit of that going on, so that obviously plays into it.”

Is it just me… or does this is all feel a bit grating that at this point in time when a female filmmaker makes a good film, the angle of the story still ends up being about how she’s not a guy?

I don’t blame the journalists. It seems that the world still needs to be reminded that it IS possible for a woman to tackle subject matter that’s perceived as traditionally male.  Or at least be shown some sort of special reason for why it happened.  Even though it’s perfectly ho hum acceptable when a man directs a chick flick. Are men really from mars… is it really beyond the ability of women to get inside their heads? Come on people… So on that note, let’s look at these two examples and burn their memory so deeply in our brains that next time around we can get closer to celebrating the filmmaker, not the female.

Katheryn Bigelow, who’s been directing action movies for what seems like two decades has (surprise!)….  done it again. This time she’s taken on war. THE HURT LOCKER follows a three-man bomb squad as they disable bombs and find that the experience of war can be addictive and mind-bending. The visuals create a powerful visceral experience and showcase her background as a talented painter. A.O. Scott writes in his review, “If “The Hurt Locker” is not the best action movie of the summer, I’ll blow up my car.”

Lynn Shelton’s HUMPDAY, coming out this Friday, is about two old friends (dudes) who decide to shoot an artistic porn flick as a way to break out of their stultified existence. Shot on a microbudget over several days, this is Shelton’s third feature and her second small budget D.I.Y style film.  I admit I have not been to an advance screening but I have high expectations due to the reviews and the rating on the “tomatometer.” Usually I ignore the tomatometer but at 94% positive… how can you?  David Edelstein writes in New York Magazine: “Lynn Shelton’s marvelous chamber comedy Humpday butts up against the same sort of taboos as Brüno, and in its fumbling, semi-improvised way, it’s equally hilarious and even more subversive.”  Todd Mccarthy writes in Variety, “Shot in a manner that feels as improvised as the dialogue, “Humpday” nonetheless possesses a comic structure as rigorous as any “I Love Lucy” episode.”

This tiny film, made with freedom for what a studio would consider zero money, has already garnered much praise and is probably going to make a decent profit. Now that’s something to wonder at.