FILM REVIEW: Revenge @ Tyneside Cinema, Newcastle (14.05.18) | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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The Reclaim the Frame scheme arrived in Newcastle with a bloodthirsty roar. Reclaim the Frame is a scheme run by feminist film charity Birds Eye View, a celebration of subversive films helmed by female directors.

First up is Revenge by Coralie Fargeat, a rape-revenge ode to grindhouse. Fargeat’s intention is clear, to make the audience aware and uncomfortable of the male gaze as we follow Matilda Lutz’ Lolita-esque protagonist around at crotch level in bikini bottoms. It is, at first, an interesting take on the rape-revenge plot in which Lutz’ character is celebratory of her sexuality. She revels in the attention and claims she just wants “to be noticed”. Fargeat steers away from any kind of glamourisation of the rape itself found in other rape-revenge films like Last House on the Left. It is instead portrayed as the result of a litany of micro-aggressions in the excellently directed preceding scene.

Following the rape, the film clicks into standard revenge fare, the cinematography is rich and saturated, the location is stunning and reminiscent of Mad Max: Fury Road but it fails to live up to the empowering thrill ride of Fury Road. As for characterisation, the audience learns little about any of the characters and they end up feeling slightly hollow and we’re unsure what to root for in Lutz’ character as she betrays little aspiration beyond revenge.

The Q&A session and panel discussion afterwards was fascinating, the panel was hosted by female filmmakers, a sexual violence activist and a lecturer in sexual cultures. The discussion with the audience was invariably on whether Fargeat had succeeded in reclaiming the gaze for women and everybody had a different and passionate opinion. It is a divisive and intense film but, as the women on the panel pointed out, whether the film is good or not is beside the point. It is about the fact that women want to make genre films and to use genre films to provide a platform for discussing sexual assault is a positive step.

 

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