Criterion May releases announced

I wrote booklet essays for two of Criterion’s May 2020 releases – Dorothy Arzner’s 1940 film Dance, Girl, Dance, and the 1963 beloved classic The Great Escape. There are multiple reasons these were very exciting assignments. Dance, Girl, Dance is the first Arzner film to “get the Criterion treatment” so it’s a pretty big deal. Dorothy Arzner, who directed films as diverse as Christopher Strong, The Bride Wore Red, Craig’s Wife, Merrily We Go to Hell (my fave), and Dance Girl Dance, was the only female director under contract anywhere in the 20s/30/40s era of the Hollywood studio system. So I’m very excited to have been asked to be a part of this. Arzner was known for being a “star-maker” – she directed Katharine Hepburn, Joan Crawford, etc. – in early vehicles which showed how much she understood their unique personae. She does the same again, here, with Maureen O’Hara and Lucille Ball.

And The Great Escape! I’ve always loved it. My Dad loved it. So many people love this movie. What’s not to love? This was a particularly fun project because it had such a wide scope. I read memoirs by ex-POWS in WWII, I read about the RAF pilots, I read about the Luftwaffe, the research was so huge. And then there’s the film itself, a celebration of cooperation and cunning and courage. I watched it over and over and over again in the last couple of months, and it never gets old. I’m really happy to be a part of this one.

Also, there’s so much commentary now about how film criticism needs a “female perspective” and we need more “female film critics” and blah blah and okay, yes, of course. But sometimes what this means is there’s an assumption that women like and respond to specific things in a specific way. Or there’s an assumption that women won’t like a certain thing because 1. there are no women in the movie 2. the movie is violent and/or misogynistic, and etc. I am used to men spouting shit like this, but when women spout it – and they do often – it’s really disheartening. And if I go against the consensus – if I like something that “most women” hate – then I am ignored/shunned/nobody links to my stuff, etc. Because they can’t deal with it: I’m a woman and yet I love/hate that thing that everybody else assumes all women love/hate. You see? I WISH we could stop doing this. AT ANY RATE. The Great Escape has no women in it. The Great Escape would be ruined if they had caved to pressure to add a romance or a romantic flashback (and there was pressure back then too). Please don’t add women to a story just to placate what you think I want as a woman.

SO. All of this is just background to say: I think it’s important that Criterion asked a woman to write about this movie, and I am more than happy to chip away at the stereotypes that women don’t really like movies like this. Or that it’s not “for” them. Who are you to tell me what is and is not “for” me?

Shout out to the design team at Criterion for these extraordinary designs. I want The Great Escape one in poster size.

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1 Response to Criterion May releases announced

  1. Larry Aydlette says:

    When I was “younger,” I always wanted to write liner notes for an album. The Criterion essay is the new liner notes. It’s excellent that you are getting all these opportunities, and well deserved!

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