Then Playing — Cameraperson, Wild Rose, Women Who Loved Cinema

Cameraperson (Kirsten Johnson, 2016). A reminiscence in the form of a cinematic scrapbook, Kristen Johnson assembles footage that represents her work across a couple decades as a cinematographer for documentaries. Less a greatest-hits clip show than a procession of moments that would have usually been relegated to the cutting room floor (or the recycling bin icon) that nonetheless represent something memorable from Johnson’s experience, whether tension around authorities closing in when they are surreptitiously filming a detention center or the warm kindness that remarkably emanates from individuals as they were bravely sharing horrors that were exacted on them. Johnson puts together the film as if by instinct, thematic unity less important than what simply feels right. All of Cameraperson coheres into a compelling vision of one person’s professional life in film, including a lovely consideration of the many ways her personal experiences and impressions intersect wit h the job she does.

Wild Rose (Tom Harper, 2019). Wild Rose is part of the long British tradition of good-natured films about misunderstood individuals who overcome their mild hardships with pluck and talent. Rose-Lynn Harlan (Jessie Buckley) is an aspiring county singer, a dream made more distant by a multitude of circumstances with the most significant probably the distance her home city of Glasgow, Scotland sits from more traditional centers of lucrative twang. The script by Nicole Taylor follows a familiar scheme and director Tom Harper presents it with sturdy craft and moments of reasonable visual grace. The performance by Buckley is the only standout element of the film. She elevates scenes — and therefore the whole well-worn scenario— with popping charisma and vividly drawn emotions. Rose-Lynn’s mother is played by Julie Walters, an old hand at this sort of thing, who does her best with a role that too often shifts based on the story’s requirement for conflict or rescue.

Women Who Loved Cinema (Marianne Khoury, 2002). This documentary is a reminder that moviemaking has been a global endeavor for a very long time. Marianne Khoury traces the experiences and contributions of women in the early years of Egyptian cinema, recounting stories of mounting influence and control in a culture that wasn’t exactly hospitable to headstrong females. Khoury’s own filmmaking is sometimes a touch too amateurish, even for this sort of unassuming cultural survey. At times, it seems she’s starting the discussion without quite knowing how to nail down the closing arguments about properly venerating the contributions of her predecessors. Even so, it’s worth marveling at the accomplishments of these women who were and are largely unknown outside of their home region. Given the tendency to see film as a disposable medium in the earliest days of the form, it’s remarkable how much of their work survives, and Khoury showcases it well.

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