Since the discussion of Lorna's Silence owned my ass for three days after I posted my "Misogny Ain't Just a River in Belgium" critique, I needed to take a break before fulfilling my promise of replying to all critical comments. But now I'm back and ready to roll.
Since it's hard to respond to individuals via the comment box set-up, I've cut and pasted their messages here and responded one by one. Once again, thanks to all who took the time to share their thoughts.
Commenters notes are in italics. My responses aren't.
SPOILER ALERT, AS USUALLY
Alejandro Adams said...
The first thing I'd say to "MD'A" is that "misogynist" is a noun. You could say, "...the film itself is A misogynist" or "...the film itself is misogynistic," but "...the film itself is misogynist" totally closes my mind to the rest of what you're saying because the phrase doesn't qualify as English. And, plus, it aggravates the hell out of me.
And to the crazy bitch who runs this website, all I can say is: your review perfectly demonstrates the reason that women should not be allowed to write film reviews--or even watch films at all, for that matter. (And now I suppose you'll try to pin the "misogyny" label on this comment...? What sad little people you are. Women, I mean.)
Nictate: OK. That wasn't a critical comment, but to Alejandro I must say "Thanks for cracking me up, dude."
Private Joker said...
I didn't like it either, but it sure isn't misogynist. That just misses the point. For me, it lacks everything that made L'Enfant so incredible (that film's efficiency in storytelling, whereas this one says only a little with a lot of plot) and veers towards everything that made The Son such a piece of shit.
The Dardennes have been all over the map. Brilliant (L'Enfant), Pretty good (La Promesse, Rosetta), awful (The Son), and now mixed & disappointing. It's weird how they keep making almost the same film and to such varying degrees of success or failure.
Nictate: Great to hear your thoughts on the Dardennes other work, Private J. I look forward to finding out where I fall among those who love/hate The Son, Rosetta and The Child.
You state that the film "sure isn't misogynistic." My main complaint with the feedback I've been getting is people stating that the film isn't misogynistic like it's an open and shut case with no room for discussion or interpretation. If Lorna's Silence impacted me in that way, then it *is* a misogynistic film in my *individual* experience. Your opinion is that it's not, mine is that it is.
What I'm saying is I *can't* be wrong in stating a personal opinion about a piece of cinematic art. I can have an *unpopular opinion*. I can have a *conflicting opinion* with everyone else who has seen the film and even the filmmakers themselves. My critique may be called an *ill-informed opinion* for various reasons that I'm happy to hear about. But since I'm an amateur film buff with the very small soap box of this blog, I don't have the journalistic responsibilities of professional critics who might have to filter some of their personal reactions or feel the need to measure the possible firestorm the use of a certain word might set off in their readerships.
And I don't think I've missed the point at all. Because of focusing on this misogyny point, this film suddenly has more meaning and worth in my world -- it has me thinking and discussing fascinating things with smart cinephiles like yourself. Suddenly a film I would've otherwise forgotten an hour after seeing it has become unforgettable for me. Pretty damn amazing.
Victor Morton said...
Nictate: Victor, I'll respond to your comments one by one:
VM: I don't even think you need to have seen, say, THE CHILD, to realize that playing the sex card is silly.
Nictate: Well, I don't even think you need to have seen, say, any other movie ever made, to bring up the topic of gender issues in a film. By referring to my critique as "playing the sex card," you are dismissing my point as some kind of manipulative tactic. While I knew using the word misogyny would rile some people up, I did not chose to use it for those reasons. I chose to use it because it described the film as I saw it. I don't take that word lightly or throw it around scattershot (as another commenter accused). Actually, this is the first time I've ever chosen to refer to a film with that term.
While pointing to the Dardennes other work can inform this discussion (but they've made films about male jerks, too!), there is nothing wrong with me examining this film as an individual entity -- especially since I am discussing the film and not the filmmakers. I know others are quibbling with that point -- saying the two things are inseparable -- but I disagree. I can easily imagine the Dardennes honestly being taken aback at my opinion as alien to their intentions. That doesn't invalidate my individual reaction to the film they have created.
VM: There are plenty of despicable men in *this* movie. In other words, why do we hear so much here about Lorna's despicableness (and thus the film's misogyny), but not about the despicableness of the Mafia guys who *hatch* the plan, who *actually* "kill" Claudy, who *also* plan to kill Lorna, etc., which makes them even more despicable (and thus on the very logic presented here, the film's misandry).
Nictate: Yes, but those men are criminal types who we expect despicable acts from in a drama like this. As characters, they are barely drawn. This is clearly Lorna's story.
**IMPORTANT TO NOTE HERE: Lorna's despicableness as a character and the way she was treated by men in the film served only as the construction zone for my misogyny theory. The main crux of my argument, which I honed in on as I wrote my Rebuttal Numero Uno to MD'A, is that two elements of the film pushed it into misogynistic territory for me -- the hysterical pregnancy that devolves into madness and the element of magical realism in the ending (forest scene). If I'd just seen a film about a shitty woman being treated shabbily by men, I wouldn't have gotten so fired up and used the M word. I could've accepted Lorna's Silence as a character study with a realistic portrayal of what happens when you make dirty deals. It was the added story element of madness and the added storytelling element of magical realism that disturbed me to the point that I had to call foul.**
VM: "I define her fleeting acts of compassion in the film as being consistently reluctant actions motivated by a craving for expediency in meeting her own goals or wanting to relieve her nagging guilt rather than anything truly sincere or heartfelt or humane."
The whole middle part of the movie is just "fleeting"? I'm sorry .... the whole dynamic for about 25-30 minutes is a push-pull between the deal she made and her sorta growing affection for Claudy, which results in her trying to get out from under the worst consequences of that deal. One can scream in all-caps about "WHO TRIES TO REASON WITH THE MAFIA?" but there's a very simple answer ... those already under the influence of the Mafia, for whatever reason. And what else can such a person do?
Nictate: The problem with my original Lorna's Silence post is that I was simultaneously reviewing the film, describing why I loathed Lorna as a character and presenting my misogyny point, so it got confusing for readers as to what was evidence on the misogyny charge and what was random venting. The all-caps Mafia line was definitely random venting and did not need that kind of emphasis. And, as you correctly point out, a character in that situation doesn't have much choice but to try to reason their way out. Apologies for distracting from more important things with that randomness.
My "fleeting" comment was more about little moments like when she stuck extra things in his bag for the hospital.
That mid-section of the film you mention doesn't equate to acts of compassion for me -- a sticking point with most people who have been disagreeing with me on the film. If you see Lorna as compassionate, you're not going to agree with my interpretation. I saw that portion of the film as her stubbornly trying to make things happen in a way that would be the most expedient for her goals, while not leaving blood on her hands. I didn't see her affection grow for Claudy. Detached pity, yes, affection no.
VM: Curious ... what would a non-misogynist movie do with a female protagonist *who already is in this situation*? OK ... she shouldn't have made the deal in the first place, sure (note that this happens before the movie begins, so it obviously isn't the Dardennes' concern). But that's a different matter. What Do You Do *Now*? You can say she should just get out, but to go where ... remember the objective situation of her legal status in Belgium.
Nictate: That is not the Dardennes concern as far as the running time of this film, but they did create the story. In that way it is their concern as storytellers. I don't have a sample storyline for you, but I think a film with this same premise that starts at the same point in the situation could easily be non-misogynistic. My misogyny complaint isn't with that. I mentioned it only to begin to outline why I found Lorna so despicable. Again, a reason my blog post could've used some refining.
VM: Rather, Lorna does exactly what most people do if they have a conscience but are engaged in a structure of sin, even ones of their own making. They try to get out from under some of it and the consequences for others without catastrophe befalling oneself. It's equivalent to Faustian negotiating with the devil (or some plausible devil-figure, like we have here). And it's just vulgar to reduce this realistic portrayal of human reaction to sin, especially one's own, to "ultimately all about what Lorna wants and needs."
I like the points you make here. Very interesting to consider. But I don't find what I've expressed vulgar or reductive in the least. I admit this is a realistic portrayal. There are millions of people like Lorna in the world. It's frightening to absorb that, actually. And I have to give the Dardennes credit for capturing that on film. I suppose where I stand alone is in seeing Lorna as a frightening creature and stunted human being.
Steven Schuldt said...
That you hate, mistrust or dislike a woman --even profoundly so-- does not qualify you as a misogynist.
A misogynist would hate, mistrust or dislike a woman he just met, whom he knows nothing about, simply because she's female.
And yes, Alejandro Adams has it right in that it's a slog for men to argue with women against this sort of scattershot abuse of that term without themselves automatically sounding like defensive, patronizing misogynists.
There needs to be a word that means "mistrust, dislike or hatred for throwaway accusations of 'misogyny'"
Steve, your first line makes me cringe in that it reminded me of a couple of spots in my blog post where I jokingly called myself a misogynist because of my reaction to Lorna as a character. Those jokes were defensive and preemptive and weakened my points, so I regret including those.
I know the M word is abused and overused. I didn't chose it casually or in a throwaway way. My reaction was sincere and I've never used that term to describe a film before.
Thanks for sharing the Ray Carney excerpts.
Guido Stern said...
Re Alejandro: "misogynist" is both noun and adjective, the latter meaning "reflecting or inspired by a hatred of women : a misogynist attitude." Which, indeed, means that misogynist and misogynistic are interchangeable.
Re the debate: I'm on the not-misogynist side, mostly because like Mike mentioned, L'Enfant presents Jeremie Renier's character as an equally stupid/thoughtless character who tries to atone after doing dumb, irrevocable shit, and I wouldn't say the Dardennes are misanthropes because of it.
Thanks, Guido. Mike and Victor raised the same point. It's interesting to point out that the Dardennes portrayed a male jerk, too, but as I explain in my previous rebuttal blog post to MD'A , there are things specific to Lorna's Silence that can't be compared to The Child and these are the points that make up the strongest part of my argument (i.e., hysterical pregnancy devolving into madness + introduction of magical realism).
AT THIS POINT, ALEJANDRO ADAMS AND VICTOR MORTON GOT POETIC AND SHIT. Thanks for the comic relief, guys.
Misandry is derived from misanthropy.
Etymology: mis- (as in misanthropy) + andr- + 2-y
Date: circa 1909
: a hatred of men
There is no corollary to misogyny in linguistics; that's why The Second Sex was written and unfortunately mis-interpreted through bad translation, where it remains misunderstood today by English speaking people.
If the Dardennes didn't give Lorna the same level of preparation they gave a man's story in L'Enfant, I'm going to err in favor of Nictate; because the subject is too easy to dismiss on the grounds of it being a realistic portrayal or that she just didn't like the protagonist. The only thing "throw (or thrown) away" here is seeing misogyny rigidly defined as needing to rise to some critical level and banning small turns of it as not something that makes something else suck.
Nictate: OK, this wasn't a critical comment, but I wanted to include it here because 1) It was nice to have Ballywick (and, earlier, Ozma) in my corner 2) Ballywick makes a really refreshing point in the line I've put in bold.
You're a royal bastard for making me think I could correct a successful filmmaker, and mediocre poet.
I didn't know the word for hatred of men, so I used misanthrope implying that most men would probably hate humans before they hated only men. This is likely flawed but I simply wasn't going searching for the word "misandry," so thank you for doing the work for me and teaching me something new.
Nictate: I agree, Mike. Thank you to Victor. I wasn't familiar with the term "misandry" until this exchange either.
Alejandro Adams said...
Ballywick, your IQ must exceed mine by a factor of seventyjillions. I can't make out a single thing you've written in any of your comments.
I love that I can come to the comments section of Nictate's blog to get my Ray Carney interview fix. I've been tickled by that all day. Nictate's blog comments pop-up window: the smoke-filled room in which the cinerati convene.
Nictate: A.A.- Once again, thanks for making me laugh. The smoke-filled room line is an instant classic.
You do know what you're talking about Nictate, you just felt it like a full body blow. A. O. Scott said Lorna's Silence "was singled out last year for its screenplay, which is very good but which is also perhaps too much in evidence. Every fictional character, of course, is controlled by an external force, but in this case the reversals and surprises in the narrative undermine our crucial sense of Lorna’s autonomy, and of her solitude."
Try L'Enfant and let your camera eye take over; I recall having serial camera orgasms and feeling peaceful w/the story & characters.
Gemko's live tweeting reveals a serious soft spot for this character's story. Everyone's entitled.
I still haven't dug up the NYT story about The Dardennes' preparation for L'Enfant.
Nictate: And thanks again, Ballywick, for doing some legwork to see if I had a case. I appreciate the open-mindedness and lack of knee-jerk reaction on your part. And I agree with you about Gemko's serious soft spot for Lorna's story. Also totally agree everyone's entitled.
Which is kinda my whole point in these rebuttals and my original blog post that lit the firestorm. I am entitled to say how a film made me feel, even if that involves using a hot button, often abused adjective.