Hollywood has long been slammed for not being an equal-opportunity employer when it comes to women. There aren't enough stories about women, movies are sexist and actors are prized more than actresses. Those are the complaints.
The criticism may be justified, but it's also true that in recent years, both here and in other countries, a number of good pictures have focused on women. UC Irvine's 10-film series, "Standing in a Different Light: No Longer Silent and Invisible, a Woman Seizes Her Moments" (which opens Friday, April 7, with Krzysztof Kieslowski's "The Double Life of Veronique"), underscores that.
Alice Parsons, the events manager for UCI's Student Center and the program's coordinator, said the series attempts to look at the complexity of women while spotlighting the actresses at the center of most of the films.
"They're about women supporting each other, about self-fulfillment for women, about what it takes (to be) a woman," Parsons explained. "They cover a wide spectrum (and) look at the full experience of being a woman."
She pointed to "Lianna," the 1983 John Sayles film screening April 21. The movie explores lesbianism, as the protagonist, Lianna, leaves an unhappy marriage and develops a crush on her female teacher.
"That's one of the films that shows how women cope in different situations," Parsons said. "Lesbianism is one side of women . . . what's (portrayed) in 'Enormous Changes at the Last Minute' shows others."
That movie, released in 1983 and directed by Mirra Bank and Ellen Hovde, will be shown April 28. Set in New York City, the story divides the focus among three women: Virginia, who, deserted by her husband, lives on welfare with her three children; Faith, who visits her parents in a retirement home, and Alexandra, who becomes pregnant by her younger lover.
While the connection between men and women is often at the heart of the series' movies, Parsons noted that Ann Hui's "Song of the Exile" looks at the uneasy relationship between a mother and daughter. The 1990 release, screening May 19, follows the daughter as she journeys with her mother to Japan to visit relatives she's never met.
"This one is also good because (it's fairly obscure), and not too many people (in Orange County) have probably experienced it," said Parsons.
She added that she hoped the program's orientation would not dissuade men from attending. Many of the themes, Parsons said, were universal; and besides, men can learn from the experiences of women.
"I don't think (the films) are necessarily directed only toward women--they are more about life," she explained. "Anyway, men can find out a lot about themselves and their relationships by seeing these. In that way, (the films) are genderless (and) multidimensional."
Here's the complete series:
April 7: "The Double Life of Veronique." The 1991 film traces the experiences of two women who, while never actually meeting, are deeply affected by each other's lives.
April 14: Spike Lee's "She's Gotta Have It." The 1986 release follows a sexually liberated heroine and her involvement with three men.
April 21: "Lianna."
April 28: "Enormous Changes at the Last Minute."
May 5: "sex, lies, and videotape." Steven Soderbergh's 1989 movie explores the erotic lives of its characters, including a voyeuristic guy who records everything with his favorite fetish, a video camera.
May 12: "Alice." Woody Allen's 1990 comedy features Mia Farrow as an unhappy wife who embarks on a series of odd adventures after taking a mysterious Asian herb.
May 19: "Song of the Exile."
May 26: "Bagdad Cafe." Percy Adlon's 1988 film puts his favorite leading lady, the beefy Marianne Sagebrecht, in a California desert diner populated by several weird and whimsical characters.
June 2: "Baby Doll." Elia Kazan's 1956 drama, adapted from two of Tennessee Williams' one-act plays, stars Carroll Baker as the nubile wife at the center of a battle for sex and land in the South.
June 9: "The Nasty Girl." The series ends with Michael Verhoeven's 1990 movie about a young woman who exposes her hometown's Nazi past.
* What: UC Irvine's "Standing in a Different Light: No Longer Silent and Invisible, a Woman Seizes her Moments" film series.
* When: Beginning Friday, April 7, and continuing every Friday thereafter through June 9. All screenings at 7 and 9 p.m.
* Where: The UC Irvine Student Center Crystal Cove Auditorium.
* Whereabouts: Take the San Diego (405) Freeway to Jamboree Road, and head south to Campus Drive and take a left. Turn right on Bridge Road and take it into the campus.
* Wherewithal: $2 to $4.
* Where to call: (714) 824-5588.
MORE SPECIAL SCREENINGS
(PG) Anthony Hopkins stars as the British writer C. S. Lewis, an avowed bachelor and Oxford don who falls in love with an American poet (Debra Winger). Directed by Richard Attenborough, this 1993 British film screens Friday, March 31, at 12:45 p.m. at the Cypress Senior Center, 9031 Grindlay St., Cypress. (714) 229-6776. FREE.
Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and the Media
(NR) Linguist and MIT professor Noam Chomsky shows how the media is used as a vehicle of social control in a democratic state. Will be shown on Saturday, April 1, at 7:30 p.m. in the Physical Sciences Building, Room B-209, Irvine Valley College, 5500 Irvine Center Drive, Irvine. Sponsored by the Irvine Valley College Earth Club. (714) 559-3376. FREE.