Borderlands (Zev Berman, 2007): 6.5/10

The Magic Flute (Ingmar Bergman, 1975): 7/10

La Guerre Est Finie (Alain Resnais, 1966): 7/10

Speed Racer (The Wachowski Brothers, 2008): 8/10

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Location: milwaukee, wi

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Sister My Sister (Nancy Meckler, 1994)

At the very beginning of Sister My Sister, the two titular sisters, reunited after a long time apart, meet at the door of the older sister's employer. They embrace ecstatically, allowing themselves a moment of unguarded, pure joy before remembering their employer's daughter is watching them through the window. Then they remember they are maids, and regain composure. This is the kind of brilliant, class-minded moment that shines through the entire movie and makes it a thought-inducing puzzle.

The story sounds sensationalistic: the two sisters, Christine and Lea, are reunited as Lea begins to work in the house of Madame Danzard and her daughter Isabelle's house where Christine has been working as a maid. Christine and Lea, unnaturally close (as visualized by a continuous scar they have on their left arms), become closer and closer until something disastrous happens. The all-female production (all the actors are women - and there are really only four - as are the writer and director) could linger on the plight of being a woman in 1930s France, or on the scandalous relationship between the sisters, but instead, class consciousness and the deep nature of family are at the forefront.

Christine and Lea are mistaken for twins; in fact, they could be two halves of the same person. On the other hand, Madame Danzard and Isabelle's relationship could not be more dissimilar; the mother tries to force her love of music and society on her homely, boring daughter, who could obviously not care less. Isabelle clearly wants nothing more to escape from her uber-controlling mother, while Christine and Lea (the child of their relationship) want nothing other than to be with one another at all times. The unescapable bourgeoisie nature of the Danzards suffocates everyone in contact with them. Based on a play, the film is claustrophobic and takes place almost entirely in the Danzards' huge, empty house. There is an enormity of space, but so little life in the Danzards to take it up.

The class divide between the Danzards and the sisters starts out enormous and becomes irreparable and leads to tragedy. The way Lea screams when she thinks she breaks an expensive vase is blood-curdling, and reminds you of the way a murder victim might scream. A telling moment in the film comes early, when, in cleverly parallel scenes, Madame Danzard tells Isabelle that she loves her maid, because they never say anything, and Christine tells Lea she loves working for the Danzards because they "know their place" and stay out of her way, especially in the kitchen. This divergence of values is the key to understanding the way the two pairs relate to one another, although when Isabelle and Lea both try to break their molds by relating to one another on a different level, their respective "partners" lash out at them.

Refreshingly not sensationalistic, but reasonably shocking in its conclusion, Sister My Sister is a criminally (heh) slept on movie that explores class, sexuality, and family ties in ways few films have, or have even tried to do. Some of Meckler's shots (particularly the sisters clutching each other near the end of the film) are incredibly striking, especially since I do not see nearly enough films by woman directors. This distinctly, particularly female production is well worth the rental.


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Comments on "Sister My Sister (Nancy Meckler, 1994)"


Blogger ms. b said ... (7:00 PM) : 

I'm glad I found this blog. I really enjoyed your posts in film_stills on lj.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (8:57 PM) : 

i havent seen the movie but it sounds interesting i will check it out


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