When the name Jean Luc Godard is uttered, this never goes without praise. He played an important part in the emerging of the French New Wave (Nouvelle Vague) and therefore his name is among the list of directors that you need to have seen one or two films of if you want to count in film discourse. My first Godard was Le Mépris (3,5*) followed by Vivre sa vie (4*). Today I want to write about arguably his most important film, À bout de souffle.
As someone who constantly talks, dreams and thinks about movies it should come as no surprise that I’d be engaged in film discourse. From finding deeper philosophical meanings in absurd films to ranking movies based on year, director, genre. I’m into it all. I come across a lot of strange things in the world of film enthousiasts. From men having banners with Polanski’s face on them to men who will vilify you if you call movies or directors they love ‘immoral.’ It should then come as no surprise that these same men will attack you for opening the discourse on female film directors. And precisely this question is one I want to tackle. These seemingly liberal men ‘we should not pick our movies based on the sex of the director’ are precisely the problem which will haunt female directors for a lifetime to come. If we do not differentiate based on sex, we cannot address the inequality within the film industry. So yes, I will argue that prior to anything we should differentiate based on sex.
The glamour in classic Hollywood movies make me dizzy with nostalgia to a world I probably wouldn’t have liked to be in. Yet I still romanticize the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s precisely because of the beautiful movies that were made back then. Though I’m not unaware of the problems in those movies, especially as a feminist. Women are either femme fatales and serve solely as a catalyst for the downfall of a man or serves merely as an accessory and can be replaced by a lamp. A few weeks ago I’ve finally watched Gilda and through her being constantly pushed into a femme fatale box by her ex-lover Johnny she eventually starts to see herself as nothing more than that. Yet the movie offered a raw portrayal of what this label does to those women in question rather than zoom in on how the men are disadvantaged by those women. The movie is also an ode to all the female actresses that completely outshone the male character & a plea for more female characters in movies. Because damn it, did Ford’s acting pale in comparison to that of the magnificent Rita Hayworth.
For 103 minutes, the above girl and cat have captured my complete attention and left me in awe for the entire movie. From the beautiful seaside town scenery, the perfectly timed jokes to the relatable teen (and adult) melancholy.
Kiki’s Delivery Service is a beautiful coming of age movie about a young girl who seeks independence in a new town, as per witch mandate. On her way to finding a new town to live in, she meets another witch who is returning home from her quest to independence and she asks Kiki what her skill is and that’s when she realizes being on her own might be a lot harder than she thought in advance. She’d have to find her witch skill. And when she arrives to the new town (by accident) it’s everything she had dreamed it would be. The ocean stretched out before her signified all the possibilities she could find a town where everything is foreign. The ocean of possibilities swallowed her whole and finding her place did not come as easy as she thought it would be. No one would talk to her, or let her sleep in a hotel (without her parents) so she contemplates leaving the town.
not so excited anymore..
But when she least expects it, help comes in the form of a pregnant baker, Osono, who offers her a roof, a job, and throws in breakfast too. Utilizing her skill (flying), she makes deliveries and meets special people along the way (Ursula, the painter and an older woman for whom she has to deliver a pie to her grandchild). Of course, there is a boy too who is introduced earlier in the film but it was not love at first sight (take that, Disney!) Rather, she has her reservations about the boy, Tombo. He’s an aviation enthousiast and is therefore fascinated by her. I thought this is cool because he doesn’t fall for her purely based on her looks, but he falls for her because she has special abilities that fascinate him.
After a given moment, Kiki realizes she can’t understand her cat Jiji anymore (her being a witch allows her to understand her cat and he her). She tries to fly her broom but she can’t soar. Fortunately, help comes in the form of Ursula who helps her lay the groundwork for regaining her confidence and motivation. Ursula empowers her in a way that she was unable to do herself and after a while, she can fly again when Tombo needs her help. So in the end she saved Tombo, regained her confidence and thus her flying abilities but heartbreak comes in the form of the fact that she can’t understand her cat anymore. Yet, the story was empowering and extremely feminist too and that’s why I finished the movie with a smile. This is exactly the kind of movie I would show my little girl (or boy) if I had one.
Animal sidekicks in animated movies usually do not stick with me. They are welcoming additions but rarely make me feel things the way Jiji did. I had a genuine laugh out loud moment during this scene:
I just thought it was so cute and innocent and in no way fabricated as cat mugs are literally everywhere you look. Despite the fact that Kiki can’t understand him anymore at the end of the movie, he has found happiness with a beautiful white cat and with his little babies. And of course he’s still close with his protegée.
Despite her short cameos in this movie, she is my favorite character. She added so much to the movie. She is witty, smart and extremely empowering. She spends her time in solitude to perfect her art and dedicates her life entirely to her craft.
When Kiki loses her power, Ursula compares magical power with art. Sometimes artists lose their inspiration and need to regain confidence in order to get it back. She tells Kiki that she needs to find her own inspiration and that will help her get her powers back.
Story of my life, girl.
A typical 13 year old girl , but with witch abilities. I think it was beautiful that in the beginning of the movie she is mainly concerned with buying a cute dress and in the end she is facing an existential crisis and ends up saving a boy from falling from the sky. This really shows the transition from 13 year old girl to young woman.
The movie has so many aspects to discuss in a blog post. Papers can be written about the recurring themes in this movie but I’d like to make a short feminist analysis of the movie.
Miyazaki is known to feature strong, relatable women. He drew inspiration from the daughter of a friend for Spirited Away because the women he saw on the screen were not like young girls he knew in real life. And this is really visible in the movies I have watched of him thus far (Spirited Away and of course Kiki’s Delivery Service).
The movie passes the Bechdel Test with flying colors. But this alone is not enough to deem it a feminist movie. And this might not be a feminist movie in everyone’s perspective because I believe every woman has a different view of what empowers her. Osona believes in her straight away upon meeting her and takes her in and provides her with everything she needs for independence. Ursula helps her regain her strength. The older woman shows her much needed kindness at a time when needed most and although Tombo is a big part of the movie, he does not take over the narrative. He does not look at her like she is weak, or dumb. He admires her and she inspires him. In the end, she saves him when he could not save himself. So the fact that she loses herself and finds herself by the grace of Ursula, Osona and the older woman is extremely empowering and that it ends with her saving a man rather than being saved by one is something not often found in Disney movies. The movie did not end with marriage (because that is what all females should eventually aspire to right? Because everything is great in marriage). It ends with her getting her shit together. And that is amazing.
I’ll give this movie a 9/10 and I feel like it will enter my all-time favorite movie list soon enough. I need to digest it a little more but I’m looking forward to watching more of Miyazaki’s movies.