BAM film series ‘Punks, Poets, and Valley Girls’ highlights ’80s women filmmakers
BAM has a very cool retrospective film series, Punks, Poets, and Valley Girls: Women Filmmakers in 1980s America, that runs today (8/7) through August 20 at BAM Rose Cinema:
Following the independent breakthroughs made by women filmmakers in the 1970s, opportunities unseen since the silent era suddenly opened up for (white, straight, cis) women in the studio system in the 1980s. The result was a wave of decade-defining classics by directors like Kathryn Bigelow, Amy Heckerling, and Penny Marshall, who brought a sensitivity to female subjectivity and experience hitherto rare in mainstream genre cinema. Simultaneously, women filmmakers outside Hollywood continued to challenge white, patriarchal notions of narrative, form, and subject as seen in the radical works of the New York downtown scene, the LA Rebellion, and the burgeoning New Queer Cinema movement. These artists—pioneers like Kathleen Collins, Lizzie Borden, and Donna Deitch—defied the Reagan-era status quo to bring their stories and experiences to the screen.
Films include big hits like Penny Marshall‘s Big, Amy Heckerling‘s Fast Times at Ridgemont High, amd Martha Coolidge‘s Valley Girl (not in 3-D), but there are also lots of deep cuts, like Lizzie Borden‘s no wave polemic Born in Flames, Alison Anders‘ Border Radio (starring X’s John Doe and Chis D of Flesh Eaters), Joyce Chopra‘s coming of age drama Smooth Talk (starring Laura Dern) and more.
Penelope Spheeris has four films in the series: the first two Decline of Western Civilization films (The punk one and the hair metal one), her punk drama Suburbia (starring a 21-year-old Flea), and the great vampire flick Near Dark. Susan Seidelman has two films: her 1985 hit Desperately Seeking Susan, with the breakout performance by Madonna, as well as her earlier film, Smithereens, about punks in the East Village which was scored by the Feelies and features Richard Hell in a supporting role.
There’s also Elaine May‘s notorious flop Ishtar (which is actually pretty good!), Barbra Streisand‘s Yentl, and Mary Lambert‘s 1989 adaptation of Stephen King’s Pet Sematary that will also feature screenings of some of her music videos (her videography includes many Madonna and Janet Jackson videos).