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Why Do So Few Women Like Art Films?


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#1 Ian

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Posted 27 July 2009 - 06:38 PM

Weekly box office reports show that admissions is almost split equally between the sexes, slightly skewing towards males but you go to websites like DVDTalk, HTF, .org, .com you hardly eve see any women actively posting. Browsing the arthouse section of retailers like HMV, it's almost always dudes as well. At special screenings and film festivals I've attended, it's usually 75-90% males. What gives?

#2 clydefro

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Posted 27 July 2009 - 07:58 PM

I think this is largely due to the audience following the creators. Most directors are men and their perspective tends to rule the day. Some films and ideas are obviously going to be universal, but there's little debate as to how male-centric the more personal cinema created by men will be. Even though the gap is narrowing somewhat in terms of personnel, there's a gigantic history of movies being made by men and female audiences being relegated to somewhat specialized, almost condescending pictures still filtered through the male lens. There are really only a couple of female directors who worked in Hollywood prior to the breakdown of the studio system and the most important one (Ida Lupino) was a full-fledged independent.

#3 Lawrence

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Posted 27 July 2009 - 11:01 PM

^
Hmm I can't say I agree with you Clydefro. I really don't know why the majority of women don't like 'arthouse cinema', but I've never felt it was down to the fact that the writer/director was of the opposite sex. I wish I had a better argument (or even an argument) to back that up with, but I don't.

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#4 clydefro

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Posted 27 July 2009 - 11:21 PM

Well, are you a big fan of literature by female authors or female singer songwriters? It's not exactly the same thing, but I think there's a connection. Even if you like one or two that doesn't mean you're devoted to the cause. Men and women think differently and I believe that we tend to follow the gender herd for the most part.

#5 Lawrence

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Posted 27 July 2009 - 11:23 PM

^
Women authors I tend not to go for, even though I read a lot. Female singer/songwriters I tend to love easily as much as men. I wouldn't say it was half of my collection, since half of it is probably instrumental, but they count for a big chunk of it.

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#6 Guest • Israel:

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Posted 27 July 2009 - 11:29 PM

It's because women aren't very smart.

#7 clydefro

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Posted 27 July 2009 - 11:41 PM

I like female singer songwriters too, but the connection is a bit removed per necessity if you think men and women essentially experience things differently. I would be surprised to find men who exclusively listen to that sort of music, and it seems obvious that the vast majority of filmgoers watch movies directed (and "made") by men regardless of the viewer's gender. The art house variety skews more personal to the director, historically a male, so there's little reason for the female to recognize these ideas or emotions as mattering to her. Frequently the films themselves don't even directly involve women and when they do, as I mentioned before, they're usually through the male perspective via the writing and/or direction. When Fellini puts his wife on the screen there's still that male filter. The same with Cassavetes or Godard.

This is actually a relevant topic to my recent thinking since I just watched the BFI's release of Separation again the other night and it struck me as being remarkably feminine in its resolve. Though that film is directed by a man, it was written by and stars a woman (Jane Arden) so I felt the influence as being predominantly female. There's really a huge difference in emphasis and honesty that might be noticeable right off, but I'd maintain that it's there. The booklet for that release mentions that Arden's later film The Otherside of Underneath was the only feature directed in the UK by a woman in the entire decade of the 1970s. That's incredible to me, but when you try to think of other female directors even in the U.S. at the time the list is still quite short. (Barbara Loden's Wanda comes to mind.)

I'm probably just re-emphasizing what I originally wrote, but I can't imagine that the gender of the creative people behind so many of these films wouldn't affect the eventual audience. I'm not personally as impacted by female-directed movies as I am by ones done by men, but I really appreciate the additional perspective.

#8 sexy rancheros

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Posted 28 July 2009 - 12:05 AM

Well, what would you consider a feminine film? Just because The Hitch-Hiker was directed by Ida Lupino doesn't make it all that feminine and just because Show Me Love was directed by Lukas Moodysson doesn't make it all that masculine.

Well, the films that Fellini tended to make with his wife were movies that usually had her play a victim of some sort. Cassavetes also had a similar thing going on with his wife as well. Has Godard ever even attempted to be "feminine"? I think most of his work is usually considered borderline misogynistic with the women practically always betraying the men. What about Bergman? Would you consider Persona or The Silence masculine?
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#9 clydefro

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Posted 28 July 2009 - 12:19 AM

I wouldn't try a definition of a feminine film, but I do think there's clearly something that a female director brings to the project which at some point makes it different from more masculine navel-gazing. With Lupino, forget The Hitch-Hiker and think about or look at Outrage, which contains the most harrowing scene prior to a rape that I've ever witnessed in an older film. Maybe a man could have just as effectively directed that sequence, but would he have made the same effort? I don't know. I just know that not a single male director in Hollywood ever did to my knowledge.

Persona
and The Silence don't deserve being given gender, but no matter how in line they are with the female understanding they were written and directed by a man so there is still that separation between how women experience things and how men view women as experiencing things.

I don't know about Godard. My favorite of his films and the only one I'm crazy about is Vivre sa vie and while Anna Karina's role as a prostitute might raise eyebrows among the feminist contingent it at least shows empathy for her plight unlike virtually all of the other Godard heroines I've seen.

#10 masterofoneinchpunch

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Posted 28 July 2009 - 10:49 AM

Since we are human I feel we share much more with woman than our differences (of course the differences do matter to an extent but we are not so intrinsically different that we do not have a more than a modicum of similarity) This has shown at the box office. Women flocked to see Titantic while men saw Deep Impact. Though it is easy to find exceptions since human behavior is never a exclusive logical or (XOR aka it can only be one thing and not the other). Men can have show feminine behavior and women can certainly bring a misogynistic and misanthropic to their work (if the director is not an auteur I wonder how much the gender actually matters though).

I have had a lot of success with lending Yasjuiro Ozu to females for example (yes he has been called asexual by some).

Now where does Pauline Kael fit in all of this? :D She was an ardent fan of Sam Peckinpah.

Maybe there just needs to be more female directors?
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#11 Pair

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Posted 28 July 2009 - 11:05 AM

I believe it is much more simple than all of this.

Women think intuitively, emotionally. Men think rationally, critically. Women are art, men are science.

That being said, I would direct you to my wife. She absolutely ADORES Bergman, Fellini, Renoir, Dreyer, Mizoguchi... as well as my sister (who ADORES Cassavetes) and any female friends who come over for movie night. Their sentiment tends to circle one particular drain: "I know what I love, but I don't feel a need to discuss it, and I don't care for specifics."

My wife knows which particular directors she favors most. Any time a Bergman or Kurosawa DVD comes in the house she drools. She has absolutely no need for the "nerdy extras" I geek out over in the Criterions. She just wants to see a good film, and she (as probably any other women) knows intuitively that it is just 'good' ...the end. No explanation needed, or critical analysis.

Critical analysis is where the boys come in. WE are the ones who want to know WHY it's good. WHY it's meaningful. Because of that knack for rational criticism, we may appreciate some they don't, but they appreciate some that we don't for their heightened intuitive or emotional response. Their 'gut feeling' towards a film.

For instance, my wife was repulsed by Salo, but still admitted it was beautifully and poetically constructed and that was the end of it. I had the same gut reaction, but had to pick it to death. I saw how there was actually very little violence or gore in the film, but one was given the illusion of more horror by the stories told by the mistresses, I will see how distanced the viewer is from the characters of whom typically the viewer is supposed to feel sympathy for in less creatively constructed stories, how this affects the viewer once they subconsciously consider the content of the idea presented to them, the psychological guilt involved in being implicated as an accessory via viewer et cetera et cetera blah blah blah* "...and THAT is why you feel what you feel!"

Women don't typically operate that way. They like or don't like something, the end. That being the case, why WOULD you see them at conventions, festival, so on? They wouldn't care enough to stay connected to the resources that would let them know when and where it will be, or why it is important (because to them, it has little value, it won't magnify their experience). They don't need to meet directors, they don't need to talk to other cinephiles, they don't need to talk about their experience much at all, save "I liked it," or "I didn't like it."


*this critique was purely for example purposes, please don't let it deviate the topic.

EDIT: I doubt I really need to, but just in case (and probably the same goes for this entire thread) the above was GENERAL statements about TYPICAL gender differences. I don't mean to say this means EVERY woman or EVERY man EVERYWHERE for ALL time.

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#12 Moviesnob

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Posted 10 August 2009 - 10:20 AM

I think it's parly what Pair posted above,IE the way a woman's mind may work as opposed to how a man's may work. I do think there are just as many females that enjoy those types as movies as men; they just aren't necessarily going to be a loud prescence on a film forum or at a festival. I also do think part of it is that the film world is largely a man's world, and the gender response falls in line with that. I was extra hyped for the Hurt Locker just because it was directed by a woman and shows you don't have to put out Nora Ephron-like films to be a successful female director. I do enjoy experiencing female-driven music and literature just because a female was the creative forece behind it (doesn't mean I'll like the end product more, but I be more likely to experience it).

There are some differences in what Pair wrote .... for instance Bob rarely looks at extra features on a dvd. I refuse to put any I buy on a shelf until I've watched all of the features on it. I love to hear how a story or a song came to exist - the idea behind it, who thought it up. On the same token. I don't much care about the execution of how they physically constructed or edited a scene, unless it's really unusual or new (like the walking scene in Rules of Attraction or the longest steadicam shot ever).

I also know what my opinion is on what I think is "good" . . . And I don't really ever feel the need to get into a debate over it. That's another reason I rarely post on any boards. I usually just post if I have a question or something new/worthwhile that I think will add to the discussion. If someone else has already said what I was thinking, I don't see the point in posting.

So I think there are many females out there that appreciate art films and the like, it just may be a while until they are flowing as freely around as males are. And comments like Israel's are another factor as well. While I may not hang around film forums & the such a lot, I see a similar issue in the gaming area (although females in that area are quickly becoming much more prevalent). A chick that knew her stuff and appreciated the medium on a level a male could was a rarity, but it is becoming more common. I suspect that once a female director has imense success with a solid film (IE not Twilight or a Jane Austen flick), the same may happen in the film world.

#13 bobham80

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Posted 15 August 2009 - 10:32 PM

Come on we had an actual woman post on this topic and we have no comments.

#14 Guest • Israel:

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Posted 16 August 2009 - 12:43 AM

It's because women aren't very smart.



#15 sexy rancheros

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Posted 16 August 2009 - 01:32 AM

It's because they tend to like Friends more than Seinfeld.
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#16 psufootball07

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Posted 16 August 2009 - 02:18 AM

Sometimes I've noticed this especially with college men and women too is that they tend to think art film means something like Amelie because it is in a foreign language. They are usually rather limited in knowledge of it because recent movies tend to become so ingrained into college/youth cultures, oh this film is new, must be the best ever, right?

#17 Ian

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Posted 16 August 2009 - 09:56 PM

Come on we had an actual woman post on this topic and we have no comments.


While I appreciate your wife's comments, I don't think she really addressed the fundamental question of why women who statistically make up aprox. 45% of total box office receipts according to 2008 stats don't seem to make up a significant portion of the audience at arthouse cinemas. You and Pair are both lucky to have spouses who share your passion for film! No doubt about that....but my question is what roadblock is keeping the female audience at bay. I don't believe it's that art film is male-centric. Hollywood cinema is far more male-centric and sexist in general. Even films in Hollywood that are designed to appeal to women almost always have women playing second fiddle to a male love interest and unrealistic ideals for beauty. Sometimes even preaching such awful messages that a woman of a certain age must find love, marriage and have babies otherwise she'll be lonely and unfulfilled. This crap will make a hundred million dollars, be considered a chick flick and have 60%+ female audience. Uh, why?

Art film almost unilateraly has a much more positive and/or realistic treatment of women and often has universal messages about the human condition that appeals to either sexes. Women just don't seem to be interested with the exception of a small niche group. It's not that they are lurking here in the forum but are too uncomfortable to join and add their voice. They're not at film festivals, local arthouses, film societies, independent theaters. I used to live near the University of Alberta in Edmonton, the arthouse theater was always 70 percent plus men.
I just never understood it.

#18 hal0000

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Posted 11 January 2010 - 07:18 PM

I was thinking about starting a feminist film theory thread, but I figure it's close enough to this topic that I can just graft it on here.

Watching Cat People again, I was compelled to write an essay about it in relation to a feminist perspective (or my attempt at one). The movie isn't really "art film" or "art-house," but then again, I've never liked those labels [at all].

#19 Opale

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Posted 18 January 2011 - 09:58 AM

I was reading this and it reminded me that topic...

This is a pretty simple essay about Male and Female mind and recent theories suspecting autism is an extreme form of male mind. The essay is very well justified and from one of the most important searcher in contemporary psychology Simon Baron Cohen(well his name appear in many of my recent readings).

#20 Izo

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Posted 11 February 2011 - 08:14 PM

Maybe there just needs to be more female directors?


This.

I find this topic maddening. Not because I view it as sexist or misogynistic or any nonsense like that, but because I don't know the answer myself. I think Clyde may be onto something, but I also think he's going about it the wrong way. I mean, if women only tended to go to see films - any films, forget arthouse - only directed by women, we'd only get to see a couple of movies a year. I think it's more the fact that most of these male-directed art films are made for a predominantly male audience. I doubt that it's intentional in any way, but on some level all the filmmakers know that the primary people who attend these movies are male.

I'm not sure if I actually have a point or not, but since I've joined the forum I keep opening this topic with the intention of posting and never do. Now I have.




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