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Yvonne Rainer (#110 of 2)

If I Had a Sight & Sound Film Ballot: Diego Costa’s Top 10 Films of All Time

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If I Had a Sight & Sound Film Ballot: Diego Costa’s Top 10 Films of All Time
If I Had a Sight & Sound Film Ballot: Diego Costa’s Top 10 Films of All Time

I can identify two elements common to the films that ended up on this list. They are either about feminine suffering and/or about the impossibility of language to ever quite translate feeling. The criteria which I came up with for this impossible, unfair, and incredibly fun assignment involved remembering the films that led me to think “This is one of the best films ever made” at the time I first saw them, and which, upon a re-screening, several years later, remained just as remarkable—perhaps for different reasons. Also part of the criteria was my (failed) attempt at not repeating directors, and making a conscious effort to go against a cinematic “affirmative action” that would try to represent different periods of time, countries, and genres. It’s also mind-boggling to notice how half of the list includes films made in the mid 1970s. But the list escapes traditional logic. It’s the warping, re-signifying logic of affect and memory that architected this list, which turns out to be nothing short of this cinephile’s symptom.

Women, Art, and Revolution: An Interview with B. Ruby Rich

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Women, Art, and Revolution: An Interview with B. Ruby Rich
Women, Art, and Revolution: An Interview with B. Ruby Rich

In Lynn Hershman Leeson’s !Women Art Revolution, stalwart feminist film critic B. Ruby Rich says, “A lot of us who survived those fights, bloodied but relatively unscarred, are kind of like the old C.I.A. and KGB agents that get together for reunions. Who else knows what we’ve been fighting over? Who else is interested in these issues that have really been consigned to a sort of historic scrap pile that people really don’t seem that interested in anymore?” The subject of that hit documentary is its subtitle, A Secret History. At the opening of the film in NYC, I had a chance to speak with Rich so that she could unearth that buried past even further and explain why understanding that moment is particularly relevant now.

So this is a documentary on feminist art, but also the women’s movement. But you’re one of the most renowned feminist film critics. So I’ll start out by asking you about the connection between feminist art and the women’s movement, and also feminist film, during the high time of the feminist movement, the ’70s and early ’80s.

So this triangular relationship that you’d assume would be there? It wasn’t there very much. It was a pretty weak triangle. They tended to be three different routes that women took and there was a kind of shadowing of one upon the other, but there wasn’t much connection. You’d think that there’d be, for instance, a strong connection between the feminist art movement and the feminist film movement. But, in fact, if I think about it, the only people who really crossed over were Carolee Schneemann, who did see herself as very much a feminist, and was very happy to finally have an allegiance to make after so very long of being treated badly by the boys in the art world, and Yvonne Rainer, whose work was shown in some of those very early film festivals, who was just beginning to make film but was coming out of the performance art world. She, at that time, didn’t even really consider herself a feminist. She was coming much more out of that world of the performance art left, in terms of anti-Vietnam organizing in politics and dance.