1992 Directed by Various.
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., Feb. 28, 1992
Double Bind is a compilation of four short films that all share themes of ambivalence between mothers and daughters. All four films are directed by women who hail from England, Australia and the United States. Stylistically, they all differ and thematically, their content also varies. Relationships between mothers and daughters are shown to be distinctive, ongoing and formative as well as adaptable. The first film, Night Cries: A Rural Tragedy by Tracey Moffatt, is the most perplexing. Visually audacious, the movie tells the story of an Aboriginal woman's relationship with her dying white mother. Set on an isolated Australian homestead and punctuated by the crooning of an Aborignal Christian male singer, Rural Tragedy wordlessly conveys, to a frightening degree, the daughter's anguished hostility toward her mother. It's stark, unsentimental and anti-conventional. In Pam Tom's Two Lies, a Chinese-American daughter experiences something of her mother's dilemma after having plastic surgery to make her eyes rounder and more Western following her divorce. From the daughter's perspective, the mother's eyes are false lies. Anna Campion's movie, The Audition, is the most immediately familiar and least challenging of the bunch. Director Jane Campion's sister Anna filmed their mother's audition for a small role in Jane's recent movie, An Angel At My Table. The mother was once an actress and this film records family tensions and stumbling blocks but maintains an aloof distance that cloaks more than it reveals. The most extraordinary film here is The Body Beautiful by Ngozi Onwurah. Onwurah is the British daughter of a mixed marriage. The film tells her personal story about her relationship to her white mother who underwent a mastectomy following the birth of Onwurah's younger brother. The mother also suffers from painful arthritis. The child experiences her mother's physical conditions as normal, though as she grows older she becomes conscious of her mother's crippling self-perceptions regarding her imperfect body. The daughter goes on to become a teen fashion model. The mother has vivid sexual fantasies. The honesty and genuine courage with which this movie is told, makes it unique amongst films I have seen. It does not fade quietly away. What these four various films speak to more than anything else, is the female legacy of body awareness and fluid personal boundaries that is passed on through the generations, from mother to daughter.