Associated Press film writers Lindsey Bahr and Jake Coyle pick some highlights from the programming of Turner Classic Movies’ four-month Women Make Film series, which airs every Tuesday evening through December.
“Harlan County, USA”: Today’s vibrant documentaries owe a lot to Barbara Kopple. In her 1976 film (aired September 15 on TCM), Kopple intimately documents a grueling 13-month miners’ strike in a small Kentucky town. Terrifyingly scored by bluegrass and country music, the film captures the struggles and sacrifice of the miners and their families as they faced a criminal company. “The Duke Power people didn’t take me seriously,” Kopple once said. ‘I was free to talk to anyone. They just thought I was a funny girl with a tape recorder and camera. The movie won Kopple her first Oscar. – Coyle
“The Virgin Suicides”: an adaptation of Jeffrey Eugenides’ novel, Sofia Coppola’s 1999 feature film debut (aired September 15) about the melancholic inner life of 1970s suburban girls played to critical acclaim at the Cannes Film Festival. raves, but “nobody saw it in America.” Only recently did she realize that despite its hissing start, the film had been given a second life with a new generation of teenagers who weren’t even born when she made it, but were drawn to the dreamy images and themes thanks to the internet. Great movies will always find audiences in the end. – Bahr
Daughters of the Dust: Julie Dash’s 1991 lyrical, dreamy drama about the Gullah women of the Sea Islands off the coast of South Carolina in the early 20th century, was the first film directed by an African American woman to received a nationwide theatrical release. Daughters of the Dust (aired September 23) continues to hold a special place in film history and in the hearts of moviegoers; it is believed to have been a strong source of inspiration for Beyonce’s ‘lemonade’. Dash, inexplicably, never got the chance to make another feature. – Coyle
Beau Travail: Claire Denis’ loose adaptation of Billy Budd is a hallucinatory and balletic meditation on masculinity. “Beau Travail” (recently restored and currently showing in virtual theaters; aired September 30 on TCM) takes place in a French Foreign Legion outpost in Djibouti and uses the framework of Herman Melville’s fable for a study of ritual and oppression . (Barry Jenkins has elevated the film’s influence on “Moonlight”.) The dialogue is sparse and the story is secondary; it’s all in the movement and the bodies under the desert sun. – Coyle
“Daisies”: Chechen director Věra Chytilová’s anarchic, exciting 76-minute feminist bacchanalian “Daisies” (aired October 6), from 1966, has always been an acquired taste. While loved by some from the start, it was banned from major movie theaters in her country and cut down by the New York Times’ Bosley Crowther, who called it “ pretentiously loopy and painfully exaggerated. ” But after being largely unavailable for years, it also found a second life thanks to a 2009 restoration, a subsequent Criterion release, and a new generation of fans. – Bahr
Meshes of the Afternoon: Maya Deren’s surreal 1943 black-and-white experimental film (aired October 6) lasts only 14 minutes, but the haunting, avant-garde masterpiece has had a huge impact on artists and filmmakers, from Janelle Monae to David Lynch. – Bahr