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 effect of this dominance of patriarchy in the medium of film and the naturally voyeuristic nature of film itself combine to create a phenomenon referred to in feminist film criticism as the “male gaze.” Kaplan, discussing the effects of this voyeurism in Hollywood cinema states spectator is obviously in the voyeur position when there are sex scenes on the screen, but the screen images of women are sexualized no matter what the women are doing literally, or what kind of plot may be involved.” The frame of the camera, the distance and watching of “intimate” moments constructed within the film's narrative cause this sexualization. [...]
[...] The photograph is of Alice crying over Dan's attraction to Anna, and shows up throughout the film several more times, once at an exhibition of Anna's photography, and once more at a pivotal scene between Larry and Anna, when Anna leaves Larry for Dan. In the scene concerning the first reappearance of the photograph, Alice is looking at her own photograph, and is immediately joined by Larry, who asks Alice what she is so upset about in the picture, to which she replies Which is true, because at this point in the film her life is entirely comprised of her relationship to Dan? [...]
[...] The women of Closer embody all of these things. They are the weapons with which Larry and Dan fight each other. Dan begins the film happy, and ends the film sad and broken. Larry begins the film lonely and horny, and ends the film rich and happily married. Anna begins the film lonely and divorced, living on her own terms, and ends the film properly subjugated to Larry. And Alice? Begins the film in the male gaze, trying to break free with (arguably) a suicide attempt, and ends the film in the male gaze, with another (arguable) suicide attempt, right back where she started. [...]
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