Penthesilea (Mulvey/Wollen, 1974): BFI Southbank, NFT3, 8.40pm
This is part of the Cinema Born Again: Radical Film from the 70s season. This is preceded at 6.20pm in NFT1 by a discussion involving Laura Mulvey and a panel of fellow critics who will reflect on her groundbreaking essay ‘Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema.’
This is the BFI introduction:
Newsreel footage of the suffragette movement, manipulated and cut-up,
forms just one sequence in which theorists Mulvey and Wollen consider
the speculative archetype of the warrior Penthesilea and her
manifestation in different media. A stylish 70s Wonder Woman comic plus
the very film being made are also reflected upon, with the filmmakers
resisting the idea of the authoritative statement.
Time Out review:
Laura Mulvey and Peter Wollen's film opens with a mime performance of Kleist's play
about the Queen of the Amazons, and then proceeds through a suite of
four further sequences designed to tease out some of the main
implications in this opening 'statement'. Feminist issues loom large,
not surprisingly, but the film embraces many other things, from Kleist's
bizarre personal history to the way an actor feels in assuming a role.
It's constructed as an exploration of relationships, real or potential,
rather than as an argument or a single line of thought: it's interested
in the link that may exist between a Greek vase-painting of a warrior
woman and the Suffragettes, or, more formally, between a specific sound
and a specific image. As such, it's a kind of scrapbook with a polemic
kick. And it's also something of a milestone in dragging the moribund
British cinema into an era long inhabited by Godard and Straub.