Cinema Scope

Hiding in Plain Sight

The outrage that (rightfully) greeted the Cinémathèque française’s 2017 retrospective dedicated to director Dorothy Arzner laid bare the doublethink that continues to haunt our attempts to properly celebrate women filmmakers. In film notes and a curator’s statement that were grossly under-researched and inaccurate at best, misogynist and homophobic at worst, Philippe Garnier managed to offer such charming sentiments as contending that Arzner only ascended the ranks of Hollywood directors because she possessed “fuck-you money” from her family, and that her films appealed mostly to “militant lesbians.” The retrospective’s presenting partner, the French feminist film festival Créteil Films de Femmes, understandably requested that Garnier’s notes not be published (the Cinémathèque declined), and a host of film historians and critics, including Arzner’s biographer Judith Mayne, offered their own appalled responses to the retrospective’s unforgivable lack of historical context and outward hostility towards its subject.

While some decried as further evidence of France’s medieval refusal to promote women filmmakers, whether past or present—in the past 15 years, out of nearly 300 director retrospectives at the Cinémathèque, a paltry six were dedicated to women—others contextualized it as simply a more blatant example of systemic, transnational faults. I can attest to this myself: when preparing my

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