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Alice and Anna: The women of ‘Closer’

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Makena L.
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  1. Introduction.
    1. Feminist film criticism during its glory days.
    2. Dominant (Hollywood) cinema.
    3. Hollywood cinema's phallocentric undertones.
  2. The eroticization of women on the screen.
  3. The first image presented to the audience at the start of the film Closer.
    1. The opening and a very clear indication of the direction the rest of the film takes.
    2. Alice and Dan.
    3. Anna and Alice as contrasting symbols.
  4. The begining of Alice's story.
  5. Alice's striptease in the context of her relationship.
  6. Alice's character.
  7. The paradox of Alice within the film.
  8. Alice as a sort of tragic and cautionary tale.
  9. The first scene involving Anna.
  10. Conclusion.

Feminist film criticism during its glory days focused on three major themes: the objectification of women on the screen, their marginalized role in the narrative, and the effect that movies as a product of popular culture have on that popular culture. These three perspectives, which began to be articulated with the rise of movies in the popular culture in the late nineteen sixties, are still applicable today. E. Ann Kaplan articulates a major cause of the marginalization of women in the cinema in her essay Is the Gaze Male? Dominant (Hollywood) cinema is seen as constructed according to the unconscious patriarchy, which means that film narratives are constituted through a phallocentric language and discourse that parallels the language of the unconscious. Women in film, thus, do not function as signifiers for a signified (a real woman) as sociological critics have assumed but signifier and signified have been elided into a sign that represents something in the male unconscious. The reasons she sites for Hollywood cinema's phallocentric undertones follow: first, film has traditionally been a male-dominated field, with male directors and screenwriters producing most of the films that make it into the pop-culture scene. Therefore, the themes that are expressed, by default, are of a distinctly male perspective.

[...] This could be a positive (if grim) feminist interpretation, and possibly a statement against the objectification of women in society, if it weren't for the way that Alice battles her own objectification by trying to own it in the film, and failing at every turn. As it is presented the moral is more along the lines of ownership? It could be argues that Mike Nichols is saying something more along the lines of (men) own you (women), we own your sexuality, we own your lives?and don't try to take control of it, because you will be empty, and you will die- and in your death? [...]


[...] The relationship between Dan and Larry consists completely of a form of bartering for the women in the film, most notably, Anna. The only two scenes between Dan and Larry in the film concern a form of haggling over Anna. The first scene between the two men is actually a chat room conversation, where Dan, upset at being refused by Anna, pretends to be her in a sex chat room, having ?cyber in her name with the unwitting Larry. Ironically, this is how Larry and Anna end up meeting, a meeting that ultimately results in their marriage. [...]


[...] The women of the film are the objects that drive the men, and their role in the film does not exceed far beyond those boundaries. With regards to Alice, Closer is unique because while making use of the conventions of the male gaze, it also (in part) discusses the effects of the male gaze on women, a kind of self-supporting study which manifests in Alice's character. Not only is Alice the main subject of the voyeuristic male gaze in the film- with careful attention paid in each of her scenes to her beauty and objectivity- (exemplified in the first scene), but as a character in the context of the narrative, she chooses to place herself within that gaze, so that she embodies a sex object body and soul. [...]

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