“And that’s the other thing about [Green], by acknowledging that these feelings exist I feel like then you see it, and you recognize that in yourself.” –Sophia Takal

It’s Sophia Takal’s birthday today.

“I think a fear of portraying something negatively ends up creating more stereotypes. Like a fear of going into these negative feelings that I have had and a lot of women that I’ve spoken to have had creates these sort of plasticky women.” — Sophia Takal

I so agree with her above statement! And this is very evident in her films. She does not shy away from negative feelings, things that are sometimes “left out” because of the perception that they will re-enforce stereotypes.

I’ll just say this up front: I did not like Takal’s re-make of the cult classic Black Christmas, which got a lot of scathingly negative attention at the time of its release (the negativity seemed REALLY out-sized to me. Like, calm DOWN, everybody, it’s a remake.) I think it’s important to be honest when things work and/or don’t work. Too much “stan” culture is not good for criticism. HOWEVER: I had been paying attention to Sophia Takal for years, and she is one of my favorite up-and-comers. I was excited for Black Christmas, and bummed out when it didn’t highlight her special qualities as a filmmaker. (Takal’s husband, Lawrence Michael Levine, is also interesting – they collaborate on most everything. His most recent film, Black Bear, is dedicated to Takal. I get into their artistic partnership in my review.)

Always Shine (2016)

What really turned me on to Takal was her 2016 film Always Shine. I reviewed for Ebert. It wears its influences (Persona, Mulholland Drive, Three Women) on its sleeve – but it also shows Takal’s specific sensibility (or, what I would come to know as her sensibility, once I watched the rest of her work). I REALLY love Always Shine.

As the hype for Black Christmas ratcheted up, making me feel uncomfortable – there was something about it that felt off – not necessarily Takal’s fault, but the marketing – I felt this weird urgent sense that I needed to write about Takal’s work as a whole, because I feared what was coming – a bunch of newbies trashing her new film, without having seen the rest of it. This is a new and young female filmmaker, who has been making films for over 10 years at this point. Let’s put this shit into perspective.

Green (2011)

So I wrote about Takal’s work for Film Comment, and really zeroed in on what I think makes her special and for sure someone to watch. Listen, you direct a film like Always Shine, it’s gonna take a lot more than one bad film to turn me away. I’m not a stan, but I am an admirer, and I look forward to seeing whatever it is she does next. Sophia Takal is the real deal.

Always Shine (2016)

Thank you so much for stopping by. If you like what I do, and if you feel inclined to support my work, here’s a link to my Venmo account. And I’ve launched a Substack, Sheila Variations 2.0, if you’d like to subscribe.

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