Monday, June 18, 2012

Life Through a Lens

Here's my take on Life Through a Lens, another fantastic addition to the NHFF line-up. 
It will screen during the "Mothers and Daughters," show, July 8th @ 12pm. To purchase tickets, follow this link

Life Through a Lens
Dir. Ellenor Argyropoulous

Ellenor Argyropoulous’s Life Through a Lens follows shy Rose (Rowan Davie) as she makes her future daughter-in-law, Lilly’s (Lily Hall), wedding dress. By spending time with Lilly, Rose finds new confidence—not the overvaulting, conventional kind, but just enough. Just enough to do something different: to display the photos she loves, to try a new camera, or confront her past. Some of what the film has to say about bonds between women—that they are more intuitively, deeply felt than ties between women and men—is essentialist. This is also, though, one of the film’s most important effects. Life through a Lens passes the Bechdel test that most films (even award-winning ones) fail, and while that test is not strictly a barometer of quality, it does matter.[1] Argyropoulous not only treats female relationships with emotional intelligence and respect, but with a time investment rare even in independent cinema. 

In its story and aesthetic, Life Through a Lens also captures the photographic image’s capacity to bridge gaps. Rose enjoys taking pictures, but seals the envelopes of her developed photos without ever looking at them. Her increasing ability to look at her work, talk about it, and replace pictures of strangers with those of her family is symbolic and psychological—it allows her to get to know a mother she never met, and integrate her past and present. There is also something so lovely about the director’s pairing of words like “chrysanthemum” with a sepia photo—throughout, the film’s mindful pairing of word and image allows the viewer to experience these elemental features of cinema in a fresh, light, and beautifully rendered way. It is refreshing to see technology, the filmic apparatus itself, as the conduit of human connection instead of a barrier to it—the unironic celebration of the photograph is what makes Life Through a Lens worth seeking out.

[1] A fascinating way to measure women’s systemic underrepresentation in film, this test was created by Allison Bechdel in her comic, Dykes to Watch Out For. To pass, a film need only include two, named female characters talking to each other about something other than men—most films, from Lord of the Rings to Up, fail. For more information on the test, and truly awesome film reviews and pop culture commentary check out: Feminist Frequency

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