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Sois belle et tais-toi (Be Pretty and Shut Up)

Posted by martinteller on December 16, 2012

Superb documentary in which Delphine Seyrig interviews a number of actresses about the role of women in cinema.  Among the interviewees are Jane Fonda, Anne Wiazemsky, Barbara Steele, Ellen Burstyn, Shirley MacLaine, Marie Dubois, Juliet Berto, Jenny Agutter, Maria Schneider and Louise Fletcher.  It’s done in a very simple talking-head format, but the subject matter is very compelling, with wonderfully insightful commentary from all involved.

The film is loosely organized by topic, but done in a way that doesn’t feel rigidly structured and has a natural flow to it.  Among the issues discussed are the limited roles for women (mother or whore), the overemphasis on body image, the lack of working older actresses, the difficulty of being taken seriously as anything other than an actress or sometimes writer, the effect of women’s lib on the industry, and so forth.  Although most of them say similar things, it doesn’t get repetitive, and all the participants have valuable contributions.

But I’ll point out a few highlights.  Delia Silva talks about the dearth of parts for black actresses, especially one who isn’t black enough to play a slave.  MacLaine makes the very interesting observation that the relaxation of the Hays Code actually had a negative effect in that it allowed male writers to relegate women strictly to the bedroom.  And a discussion of whether or not any of the actresses have ever played a role where they have a friendly relationship with another woman (for the most part, nope) is a precursor to the Bechdel test.  Fonda relates an experience playing such a part, where the director was intensely fearful that these friendly scenes would be mistaken for lesbianism.

Seyrig — one of the screen’s most interesting actresses in her own right — gets really, really compelling and enlightening stuff out of her subjects.  Is the situation any better now than it was 35 years ago when this was shot?  Yes, but there’s a long way to go.  Many of the things noted in this film are still true today.  Rating: Very Good (86)


2 Responses to “Sois belle et tais-toi (Be Pretty and Shut Up)”

  1. addingmachine said

    wow this looks interesting. where did you find it? all i’ve come across looking for it is a 1958 title and a porn one,

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