322 Great Directors: Celine Sciamma

“A new face for a different youth—that was the moment behind the project. “

Why This Director?: The Diamonds scene is already iconic.

My Last Experience Was…: N/A.

What Did I Watch: Girlhood. (Wanted to do a full filmography retro but I got lazy, and this has plenty to work with.)

Where Does She Fit: I already lost what I wrote for this movie, so I am pissed, but Girlhood’s opening scene is unforgettable, with dozens of girls (mostly black to boot) playing football in a stadium, while a song plays and prevents us from having to endure the boring spectacle of a football match. It’s exciting because it’s young women in a man’s world, not because of the sport itself. We eventually leave with all the black girls heading home, with Karidja Toure as Marianne our guide. (She is phenomenal…and has still yet to make a second movie. Bullshit.) She has two younger sisters to take care of, an older abusive brother, and has essentially flunked out of high school.

Luckily, Sciamma’s blue light loves her, and she winds up with a girl gang (which is the better translation for the movie’s title, but they had to make it compete with Boyhood). They go to the mall (one remarkable shot uses the girl’s hair as contrast, which becomes more important as things go on and it is cut and styled as a method of demonstrating where a character’s desires lie), fight other gangs (when we see a knife, it turns out to be used to slice off another girl’s bra rather than a stabbing), and most importantly…bond in a hotel, a scene which comes earlier than you think and has the astonishing jump cut to the Diamonds lipsync. I would have happily watched a whole film about the ladies in that room even if what we get is pretty masterful in its own right, particularly any other sequence where silence kicks in except for that soundtrack of dance music and quiet synths as a camera lovingly alights on groups of women just…having fun.

Eventually, Sciamma’s interest in gender issues kicks in, but it is very late in the game when Marianne begins wearing short hair and binding her breasts even as she hangs out with men. “She’s trans” is a deliberate mislead, although that is definitely a subject of interest in the context of the director’s filmography. But she mostly just wants to get out of the man’s world she has been boxed into by becoming one of them. It’s doomed to fail, which she realizes near the end, but trying was part of the appeal, and it culminates in a final shot that is arguably the best of 2015 this side of Tangerine’s.

Most Valuable Asset: Her women.
Most Excited For: I don’t know if she has something coming up but she is writing something for Techine, apparently?

Coming Up Next: Anime master Isao Takahata.

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