1. The Dark Knight Rises
One of the most unsettling films I’ve ever seen. My partner loved it. “I like his car,” she says. “But… it’s about the supremacy of fascism,” I splutter. “Yeah,” she smiles, “I like his torso too.” That old Sylvia Plath line from ‘Daddy’ comes to mind: every woman loves a fascist. Scary but instructive.
2. Destry Rides Again
Ooo, it’s Jimmy Stewart in a tight-fitting cowboy suit. But hang on, he won’t use his gun. What does his gun symbolise? Yup. Meanwhile, Marlene Dietrich’s singing: “See What the Boys in the Back Room Will Have”. I think we know, don’t you? It’s gayer than Top Gun.
3. Get Carter
Michael Caine’s niece is raped on film for the purposes of pornography. (Try not to cry.) His response is to fight the patriarchy with the tools of the patriarchy: violence, intimidation and murder. Then he dies. John Osborne mooches about in an unconvincing neck-beard. One of the bleakest and most truthful films ever made.
Planetary scientist Kris Kelvin is haunted by his suicidal girlfriend. What does she represent? Guilt, an imaginary family, the epistemology of science itself; he’s separated subjects from objects, thoughts from feelings, in pursuit of data. Men are like that. He gets found out.
5. Blue Velvet
Masterpiece: I dare you to disagree. If you have to rape your mother to get it up, we’re all in trouble. And yet… all those robins together at the end: and those firemen at the beginning. Is that the patriarchy getting it together? It’s clear we’ll need a woman’s help to achieve that.
6. Mad Max: Fury Road
A film that wears its symbolism on Charlize Theron’s sleeve: bullet farms, corrupt bloodlines, threatening baroque skies. The leads underplay their roles to bring the background into the foreground: the old family structures have broken down and the big guy makes no sense anymore. Slow down: this is home.