Stream Films About Remarkable Women II

Women in the arts: Paris Was a Woman 1996 Documentary. Directed by Greta Schiller. Terrific. An exploration of the community of women in the arts in Paris 1920s/30s. (Most of them gay.) Neither mistress nor muse, these formidable forces created their own iconoclastic lives. Archival footage lets us hear/see interview excerpts from some of the subjects. Additional photographs illuminate.

The women: Art collector/author Gertrude Stein (and her partner Alice B. Toklas) whose salon was THE place for struggling artists and writers to mingle; Janet Flanner, whose Letter From Paris under the pseudonym Genêt ran in The New Yorker for half a century; Adrienne Monnier and Sylvia Beach who respectively owned the first bookstores in Paris to hold readings, start libraries, and eventually publish – Ms. Beach founded the iconic, English language establishment Shakespeare & Co. which exists today.

Also designer Eileen Gray, entertainers Bricktop and Josephine Baker, authors Natalie Barney, Djuna Barnes, Colette, portrait painter Romaine Brooks “the thief of souls,” and photographer Giselle Freund…What comes to light is collective support and cross-pollination. Free with Amazon Prime.

Crusader Erin Brockovich: Erin Brockovich 2000 Dramatization of the true story of a woman instrumental in winning an enormous contamination case against the Pacific Gas & Electric Company. Directed by Stephen Soderbergh. When unemployed single mother of three Erin Brockovich (Julia Roberts – Academy Award Best Actress) loses an accident case on which she counted for remuneration, she plants herself in the office of her lawyer Ed Masry (Albert Finney) and demands a job. Erin is crass, uneducated, and dresses like a tramp, but a good mother and street smart.

Given the files for PG&E’s purchase of the home of Hinkley resident Donna Jensen (Marg Helgenberger), Erin is surprised to find medical records and drives out to the Jensen’s to investigate. The housewife has suffered from several tumors; her husband has Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. PG&E supplied a doctor and paid all the bills ostensibly “because of the chromium.” Erin interviews locals finding prevalent illness of all kinds. Each family sends her to the next. Suspicious of lawyers, they relate to her. What began as a single claim grows into a class action suit against the behemoth.

Masry’s skepticism fades. A meeting with PG&E attorneys is priceless. No one expects anything of this untrained, lower class woman who knows all her families’ facts by heart and has a comeback for every challenge. It’s a crackerjack story. Roberts inhabits the character. Critic Andrew Sarris wrote, “We get the best of independent cinema and the best of mainstream cinema all in one package. Rent on Amazon Prime.

Painter Frida Kahlo: Frida 2002 can be found under Artist Biopic Films.

Edith Piaf (1915-1963): La Vie en Rose 2007 Co-written and Directed by Olivier Dahan. Marion Cotillard as Piaf won a Best Actress Academy Award, the first time an Oscar had been given for a French-language role. Despite liberties, the film will give you a fairly good sense of “The Little Sparrow” from street urchin childhood, to booed music hall performer, to international star. The indomitable performing artist often makes poor choices in love, overcomes addiction, performs, suffers tragedy, and writes timeless songs, never feeling as if she fits. A tumultuous life played with ferocity. Rent on Amazon Prime.

Aviatrix Amelia Earhart: Amelia 2009. Sources include “East to the Dawn” by Susan Butler and “The Sound of Wings” by Mary S. Lovell. Directed by Mira Nair. Better for sequence and spirit than character plumbing. Amelia Earhart (Hilary Swank really looks like her) approaches publisher George Putnam (Richard Gere) as a candidate to be the first woman to fly across the Atlantic. There are book and licensing deals attached. Both pilot and navigator are, however, men. She holds the title “Commander” while actually a passenger. Next time Earhart makes the trip, she’s at the controls.

Between segments of her last flight, we follow a flashback career of breaking records and lecturing, promoting both women aviators and plane travel as expertly handled by Putnam who becomes manager, PR person, and eventually her husband. Earhart tells him up front she doesn’t think she can ever settle down. An affair underlines the fact. (The Putnams recover.) We see flights from above and below observing credible exhilaration and dangers. Rent on Amazon Prime.

Editor/Writer/ Curator Diana Vreeland: Diana Vreeland-The Eye Has to Travel 2012 can be found in Stream Films About Fashion IV: More Documentaries

Patroness/Collector Peggy Guggheim: Peggy Guggenheim-Art Addict 2015 Directed by Lisa Immordino Vreeland. A good look (film and stills) at Peggy Guggenheim whose prescience about modern art resulted in groundbreaking exhibitions and eventually the museum in Venice, Italy. Powerfully influential in bringing together European and American avant-gardes, Peggy unabashedly slept her way through the community “sex is so refreshing” and is praised by talking heads for being a patroness, not just a collector. She seems willing to be exploited in return for visibility or favors.

We see some of Peggy’s own work, some of what she purchased. Artist anecdotes are appealing. The documentary offers so many different opinions by those who knew her, however, any clear portrait is left to the viewer. Just in front of The Guggenheim Collection in Venice stands the Marini horseman  (Sculpture) “The Angel of the City.” Its penis (legend has it Peggy had it added) is removable to avoid shocking the nuns going past on their way to religious festivals.  Rent on Amazon Prime.

Inventor/Entrepreneur Joy Mangano: Joy 2015 Directed by David O. Russell In 1990, Joy Mangano (Jennifer Lawrence) was the sole support of a co-habiting family that might’ve been invented by George S. Kaufman: mother Terri (Virginia Madsen) who spent the day in bed watching soaps, maternal grandmother Mimi (Diane Ladd), divorced father Rudy (Robert Di Niro), and ex-husband, wannabe singer Tony (Edgar Ramirez). One day, in household frustration, she invents a self-wringing mop.

After several mishaps, Joy reaches QVC Executive Neil Walker (Bradley Cooper). Choice of pitchman is unfortunate until the inventor herself takes over. Through someone else’s bad business decision bankruptcy looms. Neil becomes a competitor. Joy pulls her company out of QVC  and becomes a multimillionaire producer of not only her own but others’ designs. If you enjoy this, watch television’s Shark Tank. Rent on Amazon Prime.

Women’s Vote: Suffragette 2015 Directed by Sarah Gavron. Few people are aware of the violence and sacrifice that resulted in the UK’s finally securing women’s voting rights. This fact-based drama is painful and illuminating. Married laundry workers in their mid-twenties, Violet Miller (Anne Marie Duff) and her friend Maud Watts (Carey Mulligan) get involved in the grassroots suffragette movement. When he finds out, Violet’s husband beats and threatens her. Maud is successively stigmatized (by peers), fired, thrown out of her home, and arrested. In prison, she meets Emily Davison (Natalie Press), confidante of movement leader Emmeline Pankhurst (Meryl Streep in a cameo).

Increasingly radicalized, the young every-woman begins to participate in violent demonstrations. Emily’s extreme action at The Derby Stakes finally brings international attention to the cause. When realistic domestic violence scenes were cut, there were demonstrations against the film. One can only hope that today’s environment might’ve left them intact. “Women over 30 in the UK were given the right to vote in 1918, rights over their own children in 1925, and the same voting rights as men in 1928.” The U.S. ratified women’s voting in 1919. Rent on Amazon Prime.

Image by Dimitris Vetsikas from Pixabay 

About Alix Cohen (1720 Articles)
Alix Cohen is the recipient of ten New York Press Club Awards for work published on this venue. Her writing history began with poetry, segued into lyrics and took a commercial detour while holding executive positions in product development, merchandising, and design. A cultural sponge, she now turns her diverse personal and professional background to authoring pieces about culture/the arts with particular interest in artists/performers and entrepreneurs. Theater, music, art/design are lifelong areas of study and passion. She is a voting member of Drama Desk and Drama League. Alix’s professional experience in women’s fashion fuels writing in that area. Besides Woman Around Town, the journalist writes for Cabaret Scenes, Broadway World, TheaterLife, and Theater Pizzazz. Additional pieces have been published by The New York Post, The National Observer’s Playground Magazine, Pasadena Magazine, Times Square Chronicles, and ifashionnetwork. She lives in Manhattan. Of course.