Female Trouble

Written by Laura Dinnebeil on . Posted in Posts.


Dara snuck into my heart through the back door. Cuban and Italian, she was dark like the wrong side of the moon, a devout coke addict who drank a pint of Scotch a night. She catered to my every desire, hugged me like a bear. It’s living hell to love a vampire when you’re a morning person.

When I first met her, I was not at all taken. She was trash. Dara was running around in tight briefs and high heels at this all-nude strip bar hidden beneath a heavy black iron door and a flight of stairs drenched in red light. Rita, the Amazon German, sold tickets at the bottom of the stairs. She greeted me from the window with an odd, warm smile, “Hello, Laura.” I was the house comic. Rita, mother to punk rock souls, knew who I was—an orphan seeking a surrogate life, a rainbow and a hallway to the Devil. I was welcome. Twenty women danced naked, one man breathed fire and I ranted anger into the mike. I was the orphan who needed therapy most. The girls smoked and nodded as they watched.

Dara walked right up after my set and pointed at me, “You were really good, I really liked your shit.” She stuck her hand out. “I’m Dara by the way.” Her shake was delicate, and she sucked on her cigarette like it was giving her the next sentence.

“Are you from New York?”

“Yeah.”

“You’re a dead ringer for this performance artist I know named Suzycide. She does the same shit, except different. I’m from Chicago, don’t hate me.” She protected her head, pretending to cower under her hands.

“It’s really cool, I walked in here last Monday, and Rita gave me a job. I hear she’s nice as long as you come to work. How long have you performed here?”

“A long time.”
“They used have places like this in Chicago, but not anymore. It sucks now. Now everything’s really uptight. Oops, I have to go on stage. Talk to you later.” She gave a sexy wave good-bye.

I thought she was kissing my ass—a victim with fangs. Then she stepped onto the stage and nodded to the DJ. Depeche Mode’s “Stripped Down to the Bone.” warbled. She was hypnotic as the unfolding of tragedy as she danced in her underwear and a pair of long gloves. She made large, slow gestures, like Martha Graham. Deliberate and unabashedly woeful, she stripped naked, reclined on her back and looked into my eyes.

That night she invited me out with everybody: Violet, five feet tall, with breasts as large as blenders; Suzette, husky, her face full of piercings, who moisturized her many tattoos like she was polishing a car; and Chris, a lesbian rave kid who dressed in baggy jeans and a baseball cap turned backward. I was not particularly honest with myself. “I followed because she made me, “I thought.  Heavily drunk, she swayed in front of me at the dance club. “I don’t want you to think I’m this way, because I’m not.”

But Dara’s smile was so quick and her wit so refreshing that she felt like a long lost friend. We all ended up at a box-shaped disco on Avenue B. Homeboys loitered in the basement, where deep-house blasted. I stripped off my clothes, not caring who watched. I wanted to be naked too. “You’re such a good dancer!” said Dara, in awe. All the sudden, she swept beneath me, and we were nose to nose, her pelvis pressed up against mine. She held me like a pissed-off samba dancer. I had never danced with a woman like that before.

We got kicked out at 8 a.m. Rise and shine with the junkie sun. I was tired, but I couldn’t leave her. Dara leaned against my breasts and kissed me sentimentally outside.

Her kiss was sweet and fragile, not at all aggressive. She held me like a mother never held me, and I blushed inside, knowing it was no substitute for the real thing. “Can I sleep at your place tonight? I don’t want to go home.”

We camped out on my futon. Dara was preoccupied with a mirror decorated with lines. I was anxious because I wasn’t snorting, and I wasn’t a lesbian. She sniffed and pulled off her shirt. Topless, she leaned on one hand and smoked with the other.

“I’m married you know. But I’m getting divorced.”

“Really?”

“Yeah. One and a half years.” She explained the sadness she hid from the girls. That her husband was actually a good guy, he just had no job, beat her and drank. She really liked me; thought I was a genius. She noted I needed love. Eventually, she crouched on all fours and licked my clitoris lightly. She wanted to show me a new world, spoil me. Coke fueled her generosity. Then she giggled abruptly. “Excuse me, I have to pee.” Like a baby panther, she stalked into the bathroom, lean and tan. I was out of toilet paper. She stuck her hand under the cold running water and washed her pussy with a handful.

From that night on, I spent every waking moment with Dara. She was unbelievably fun and dissolved my worst moods. Whenever I visited the strip bar, she lit up like a child at Christmas and waved frantically. She would look at me and laugh while sitting with other men. Her sexiness was like a flock of doves escaping a cage; they flew out of her soul when she smiled.  

One Tuesday night, Dara called me very late.

“Laura? I’m locked out of the house. Can I crash at your place?” It was not a problem.

She showed up in fur coat, looking French with her short brown hair and a cigarette. She pulled out drugs, shaking. I wanted to lick Dara’s spirit more than her flesh, express my awe of her body and enigmatic presence. Keep her as mine. I eventually licked between her legs, her vagina mignon and pretty, her lean body arched. But she pushed my head away, crying. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry.” She looked down. “I can’t go to my happy place anymore. It’s not your fault. I used to tell Matt, ‘I can’t go to the happy place, baby, something’s wrong.’” Her eyes were full of tears.

“Something’s wrong, baby.”

She paced naked and cried the rest of the night, asking if she could live with me for a while. She had no place to stay. “Matt’s flying in from Chicago tomorrow. We’re supposed to talk. I’m gonna tell him I want a divorce and he can’t hit me anymore.”

That morning, she backed out of my door and waved, “Too-da-loo!” Days went by, and I didn’t hear from her. A week and a half passed. Finally, I went to the strip bar and found out she had gone back to Chicago.

Female Trouble

Written by Armond White on . Posted in Arts & Film, Posts.


The Women

Directed by Diane English

Running time: 114 min.





It’s the opposite of progress when the new adaptation of Clare Booth Luce’s proto-feminist play The Women flaunts an openly gay character yet sets a scene in a lesbian-chic restaurant where the lighting is so poor it turns all the actresses into ghouls. This new version of The Women fails to celebrate its characters as women. It patronizes the C-list cast of Meg Ryan, Annette Bening, Debra Messing, Eva Mendes, Jada Pinkett Smith, Bette Midler and Candice Bergen as politically correct pawns.



George Cukor’s 1939 version enhanced Luce’s material. Although it could lapse into shrillness, it also featured testaments of female living that were impressively genuine. Poised against each other in the plot about a woman competing with her husband’s mistress, Norma Shearer’s naive grand dame and Joan Crawford‘s pragmatic shop girl brought experience to the frivolity. Plus, Cukor celebrated his actresses: Shearer, Crawford, Paulette Goddard, Rosalind Russell and Joan Fontaine were dressed by Adrian with cosmetics by Max Factor. This new cast looks as if they were styled by John Deere. Never before has so many rough-chopped facelifts and unflattering hairdos appeared in a single film or contradicted its message.



Cukor was euphemistically known as a “woman’s director.” Since then, his ability to enhance actresses’ performances has been appreciated as more than just gay-male rapport; he knew how to present personality and shape characterizations with narrative clarity. TV veteran Diane English (credited for “creating” TV’s Murphy Brown series) wrote and directed this version of The Women, but she proves clueless about cinematic form—as did Michael Patrick King in Sex and the City. Through television-style crudeness, The Women loses the details—the almost microscopic aesthetics—of the original. It’s an oddity, a classic example of MGM’s mythmaking apparatus where female glamour (sexual power and intellectual pride) transcended Hollywood’s male-dominated ideology.



Diane English’s strident polemics (about career anxieties, teenage body issues, playing the lesbian card) lessen the story’s drama—which was provided by Luce’s emotional truth. English’s adaptation represents updated attitudes, but are her changes actually more feminist or just contemporary sentimentality? It’s hard to tell, especially when the climactic showdown between Meg Ryan and Eva Mendes—jilted wife vs. ambitious hussy; chirpy Wasp vs. sexy Latina Amazon—fizzles. The scene’s construct of female social manners collapses because of the modern complexity of ethnic and class rivalry. English doesn’t bother to sketch the intricacies of multiracial sisterhood. (Jada Pinkett Smith never helps.) Where’s Tyler Perry when you need him?



“When did this become a 1930s movie?” Ryan quips when her predicament becomes absurd. Yet she then follows the 21st-century formula of The Devil Wears Prada, Sex and the City and TV’s Noah’s Arc—all declensions of The Women that break down Luce’s concerns into crude camp. Nothing in the pre-feminist 1939 movie is as insulting as English’s opening shopaholic tease—at Saks Fifth Avenue a woman’s POV turns into a CGI countdown clock.



English’s modern sarcasm is why The Women fails. Condescension is also evident in the lousy visual style that butchers Ryan, Bening and Mendes’ performances; their lighting and make-up are hideously unflattering. In Jerry Maguire and Meet Joe Black, cinematographers Janusz Kaminski and Emmanuel Lubezki molded light to feature the actors’ faces, also adding character and meaning to the stories. How can The Women honor actresses while making it so difficult to look at them?

FEMALE TROUBLE

Written by admin on . Posted in Arts & Film, Film.


DIANE ENGLISH FINALLY GETS HER REMAKE OF THE WOMEN IN THEATERS-TOO BAD IT’S SO DIFFICULT TO WATCH
by Armond White

It’s the opposite of progress when the new adaptation of Clare Booth Luce’s proto-feminist play The Women flaunts an openly gay character yet sets a scene in a lesbian-chic restaurant where the lighting is so poor it turns all the actresses into ghouls. This new version of The Women fails to celebrate its characters as women. It patronizes the C-list cast of Meg Ryan, Annette Bening, Debra Messing, Eva Mendes, Jada Pinkett Smith, Bette Midler and Candice Bergen as politically correct pawns.
George Cukor’s 1939 version enhanced Luce’s material. Although it could lapse into shrillness, it also

Bad Girls Club: Bening, Smith and Messing in The Women

Bad Girls Club: Bening, Smith and Messing in The Women

featured testaments of female living that were impressively genuine. Poised against each other in the plot about a woman competing with her husband’s mistress, Norma Shearer’s naive grand dame and Joan Crawford’s pragmatic shop girl brought experience to the frivolity. Plus, Cukor celebrated his actresses: Shearer, Crawford, Paulette Goddard, Rosalind Russell and Joan Fontaine were dressed by Adrian with cosmetics by Max Factor. This new cast looks as if they were styled by John Deere. Never before has so many rough-chopped facelifts and unflattering hairdos appeared in a single film or contradicted its message.
Cukor was euphemistically known as a “woman’s director.” Since then, his ability to enhance actresses’ performances has been appreciated as more than just gay-male rapport; he knew how to present personality and shape characterizations with narrative clarity. TV veteran Diane English (credited for “creating” TV’s Murphy Brown series) wrote and directed this version of The Women, but she proves clueless about cinematic form-as did Michael Patrick King in Sex and the City. Through television-style crudeness, The Women loses the details-the almost microscopic aesthetics-of the original. It’s an oddity, a classic example of MGM’s mythmaking apparatus where female glamour (sexual power and intellectual pride) transcended Hollywood’s male-dominated ideology.
Diane English’s strident polemics (about career anxieties, teenage body issues, playing the lesbian card) lessen the story’s drama-which was provided by Luce’s emotional truth. English’s adaptation represents updated attitudes, but are her changes actually more feminist or just contemporary sentimentality? It’s hard to tell, especially when the climactic showdown between Meg Ryan and Eva Mendes-jilted wife vs. ambitious hussy; chirpy Wasp vs. sexy Latina Amazon-fizzles. The scene’s construct of female social manners collapses because of the modern complexity of ethnic and class rivalry. English doesn’t bother to sketch the intricacies of multiracial sisterhood. (Jada Pinkett Smith never helps.) Where’s Tyler Perry when you need him?
“When did this become a 1930s movie?” Ryan quips when her predicament becomes absurd. Yet she then follows the 21st-century formula of The Devil Wears Prada, Sex and the City and TV’s Noah’s Arc-all declensions of The Women that break down Luce’s concerns into crude camp. Nothing in the pre-feminist 1939 movie is as insulting as English’s opening shopaholic tease-at Saks Fifth Avenue a woman’s POV turns into a CGI countdown clock.
English’s modern sarcasm is why The Women fails. Condescension is also evident in the lousy visual style that butchers Ryan, Bening and Mendes’ performances; their lighting and make-up are hideously unflattering. In Jerry Maguire and Meet Joe Black, cinematographers Janusz Kaminski and Emmanuel Lubezki molded light to feature the actors’ faces, also adding character and meaning to the stories. How can The Women honor actresses while making it so difficult to look at them?

The Women
Directed by Diane English, Running time: 114 min.

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