"The Women" (1939)
A movie review of sorts...
I recently watched this movie for the first time out of surprise I think due to the simple fact I had never before encountered it.
Gorgeous cinematography and costuming is intended by design to please the fashion conscious palette of a particular audience. Perhaps one also seeking relief from more serious matters going on at the time (like WWII)? It contains a soft porn Dalie-esque fashion show, irrationally plonked, in the middle which unlike the rest of the movie is presented in colour for effect. It was meaningless escapism mechanism and a little ludicrous, particularly as it went on forever until, its whole purpose was revealed, to stage a hostile meeting in the changing rooms for the two main protagonists. Enter evil Shop Girl husband thief and jilted especially saintly wife. Following and equally ludicrous there was an exercise class scene which confused me and I lost track of a few chatty characters. I couldn't keep up with the super fast talking. It was all a little too "Lucile Ball".
Not one man enters the frame, hence "The Women", though several "cads", "cowboys" and "poor schmucks" are referenced. The lack of any physical male presence was the not so subtle subtext of the movie. Men may have been subsumed to become merely referenced but they are still immensely important. This device, making men invisible though clashed a bit with how important they were to our women's lives. Though it was a comment on how men are possibly over represented by most cultures, and including in most movies, making them visually absent didn't reduce this emphasis. The viewer does not miss them though strangely. This device may have some believing we are therefore privy to a pure feminine world? Hmmm... as it is utterly filled with obsessions about and surrounding men it is hard to accept this idea has much existence outside fantasy. Though it isn't wrong that female relationships take a firm back seat as a relationship between a couple strengthens, is this also the case for male friendships?
Our "heroine's" lost love was a misguided fellow lead astray by a gold digging "shop girl" from the perfume counter. The movie ends with the idea that a "wife" should forgive her "husband" of all and any unfaithful discretion because after-all he is "only a man", manipulated by an evil woman who desires what her rival already has. Envy is big in this movie. After-all a woman, her standing in the community etc. etc., is only held as a result of the man she is permanently attached to so she must protect him and that alliance. Without it she may as well go to Reno get her divorce and become invisible. Unless she has fallen pregnant to the "cad" first and then all is forgiven immediately! If she is unfortunate not to be suddenly pregnant then she must relinquish her pride because this is all which has been preventing her from forgiving him and saving him from himself! Astonishing. Even for the early part of the 20th century, the main premise of the movie is a bit of a shocker.
So many unruly gender angles, contradiction and dishonesty.
Perhaps I took it all too seriously but I can't dismiss the niggle I felt about the subtext which was heavily reinforced behind all the fluff and drivel.