Like many, I was first struck by Romaine Brooks through her remarkable 1923 self-portrait, which hangs in the National Gallery (though I’ve only seen it in reproductions). She depicts herself in somewhat androgynous dress, a dark suit and top hat, staring directly at the viewer but with eyes partly shaded. She presents an air of mystery, and of confidence, and of a woman who likely led a singularly fascinating life. And indeed she did. For a project in grad school I was assigned a comparative book review on any American artist or movement, and I immediately chose Romaine Brooks.
Though my various work commitments kept me from experiencing the full festival, I was able to take in four films at the Independent Film Festival of Boston, and they were all varying levels of good! I’m kind of behind on blogging so I decided to compile all my festival reviews together into one post, so they’ll be short. First up was my number one priority, Obvious Child. Based on the short of the same name, the film stars Jenny Slate as Donna, an aspiring stand-up comedian who loses her boyfriend and her job back-to-back. After wallowing for a bit she allows herself a one-night stand with a cute but fairly strait-laced boy named Max (Jake Lacey), whom she meets at the bar where she performs.
When the Nazis invaded Poland in 1939, World War II officially began. France and Great Britain declared war on Germany, but by 1940 the Nazis controlled half of the French state with its puppet government in Vichy, run by Marshall Philippe Pétain. At the time of the invasion, renowned artist Henri Matisse (1869-1954) had recently separated from his wife of forty years and was planning to vacation to Brazil with his assistant Lydia Delectoroskaya. Upon meeting Pablo Picasso in Paris before his departure, he discovered the full scope of the invasion, and was shocked to hear of the failings of the French military against the Nazis.
When two best friends, Marie (Cécile De France) and Alexia (Maïwenn), visit Alexia’s family farm while preparing for their university exams, they’re expecting a quiet stay in the countryside. The only signs of possible discontent seem to stem from Marie’s secret crush on her friend, and jealousy of Alexia’s many affairs with men. The very night they arrive, a mysterious stranger breaks into the house and silently slaughters Alexia’s father, mother, and little brother. Marie hides any signs that she’s even staying there and surveys the carnage while in hiding. The killer kidnaps Alexia and Marie manages to sneak onto his truck, and the rest of the night unravels into a deadly game of hide-and-seek as she tries to rescue her friend while avoiding the monster’s gaze.
In The Painting, groups of paintings come to life and their figures search for their painter so he can finish working on them. The whole story is animated in colorful, playful styles with references to great Modernist painters. The protagonist is a plucky young woman looking for adventure. So. Someone finally made a movie exactly for me, I thought. The story throws together three distinctive figures living within a single painting: a privileged “Alldun”, a completed figure; a “Halfie”, incomplete and relegated to living outside of the central castle; and a “Sketchie”, a line doodle who isn’t accepted anywhere.