In Normal’s brief but valuable cinematic experience, Adele Tulli paints a tapestry of Italian society, investigating the gendered constructs of everyday life from birth, through to childhood, through to adulthood and marriage. The breadth of settings capture scenes of conscious indoctrination, in seminars concerning the correct behaviour of men and women, and the subconscious influencing of individuals through the assignment of hobbies and interests, the over-sexualisation of women, and the suppression of female independence.
Tulli avoids over-stating her point: Normal rests entirely on the power of its images, and the truth of the environments depicted on screen. Many scenarios ring scarily true, with the normalcy of each subject forming a striking declaration in itself; these are not extraordinarily misogynist circumstances which Tulli has sought out, rather, the collection of such institutionalised trends when arranged together under the heading of ‘Normal’ naturally invites the consideration of absurdity.
For those outside of the LGBTQ+ community, the weight of these three words (or their counterparts; “I’m bisexual”/“I’m transgender”, etc) can be difficult to comprehend. Many well-meaning people even question the necessity of such a declaration, blissfully unaware of the continued assumption that everyone is cisgender and heterosexual. For LGBTQ+ individuals, however, ‘coming out’ is often an intrinsic part of our personal development; the reaction of family and friends to one’s true self has ruined as many lives as it has made. Within this community, the majority of us have our own story – whether that story be tragic or comic, neat or messy, drawn-out or quickly resolved— and it is the broadcasting of these tales that Denis Parrot’s documentary Out concerns itself with.
The film takes clips of individuals either informing their relatives of their sexuality/gender or reflecting on their coming out stories, and presents these videos in a clear manner void of all context bar the name of the person, their location, and the time of recording. Largely – though not entirely – from the perspective of young people, these intimate moments are captured and memorialised. Assembled roughly within Parrot’s film, the viewer is exposed to the full range of experiences, from the breathtaking relief of loving acceptance, to the despair of violent rejection.
Known as the grandmother of sexual liberation, the minute figure of Dr. Ruth Westheimer is an anachronism amongst the mainstream American prudishness of the 1980s. She speaks with a forthright, scientific approach to sexual pleasure, bound to the philosophy that if something isn’t working in the bedroom (or in the living room, or on the kitchen table), then the problem should be remedied, rather than ignored. Even today, her distinctive image still rings as a delightful oddity. Imagine: your lovely gentle Granny telling an audience of millions that they need to utilise the clitoris to achieve orgasm. This is the scene that many envision when considering Dr. Ruth’s career – yet, as Ask Dr. Ruth admirably proves, there is so, so much more to this incredible woman than first meets the eye.
The documentary begins with Dr. Ruth conversing with Alexa – yes, the Amazon robot – in a charming introduction to a ninety year old who is clearly happy to move with the times. Dr. Ruth laughs as she asks Alexa if she’ll get a boyfriend; “Sorry, I can’t answer that,” the robot abruptly replies, to the complete amusement of both subject and audience. This is a perfect setup for a film which will continue to explore Dr. Ruth’s extraordinarily lovable personality, alongside a deep respect for her academic achievements.
Workplace backstabbing gets scarily literal in Patrick Brice’s comedy-horror Corporate Animals, an entertaining, if shallow, mediation on the world of corporate bullshit.
In a last minute attempt to rescue her rapidly crumbling edible cutlery business (Incredible Edibles, all insinuations clearly intended), super-controlling CEO Lucy (Demi Moore) drags her colleagues off on a team-building spelunking exercise. Among the ragtag group of reluctant teammates are Lucy’s “mentee” Jess (Jessica Williams), and the secret genius behind the project, Freddie (Karan Soni), a pair of rivals-turned-friends who quickly realise that their boss has not been entirely truthful with them.
Cannes is just around the corner, and for those of us stuck at home wistfully thinking of the Croisette, there is no better place to turn than to the exceptional catalogue of past Cannes selections. MUBI have helpfully prepared a brilliant streaming lineup for their next twelve days of programming, presenting an iconic past Cannes film every day of the festival – surely enough to sate our cinematic appetites without even the need to even get up from the couch. Fantastique!
Read on to find out what our writers thought about the films included in this year’s Cannes MUBI lineup – from sadomasochistic horror, to the first movie to ever premiere in 3D at the festival, to a beloved Palme d’Or winner, there’s something here for everyone.
The campy villain is undoubtedly one of the biggest staples of traditional animation; this trope runs through film and television alike, regardless of audience and story. From The Lion King to The Powerpuff Girls, Gravity Falls to Wreck-it-Ralph, the comedically limp-wristed bad guy is an intrinsic part of American society’s casually homophobic output, setting up an environment where these behaviours are automatically associated with social ills.
The historical context of this stereotype is explored in Richard Squire’s documentary ‘Doozy’, through the example of comedian and voice actor Paul Lynde (1926-1982). Lynde, otherwise known for roles in Bewitched and Bye-Bye-Birdie, is fondly remembered as the voice of various ‘campy villains’ across four Hanna-Barbera productions – Charlotte’s Web, It’s the Wolf, Where’s Huddles? and The Perils of Penelope Pitstop. Squires utilises a combination of interviews, animated re-enactments, and talking heads to trace Lynde’s life in relation to the stereotype he so brilliantly portrayed, with ample consideration for the personal and professional impact this may have had on him as an individual.
The human idea of identity is a delicate one, naturally susceptible to fragmentation, fluidity, and misunderstanding. Culture scholars have debated this phenomenon for decades, and JT Leroy engages these issues simply through the nature of its story; if there is a variation between how the outside world views us and how we view ourselves, which of these identities takes precedent? What, morally, do we owe people when we project certain images of ourselves—is it a lie to hide behind a mask, or can our true identity be found in the ways that we present to the outside world? Is our identity internal knowledge, external presentation, or a mix of the two? In JT Leroy, these questions are asked in earnest, but the film never comes to a conclusion, scratching only the surface of a much greater discussion on the queer experience of the self.