Erika Balsom

Remembering Women: Claudia von Alemann’s Blind Spot

By Erika Balsom / June 15, 2021

Cherchez la femme, they say. It sounds nice, but what this expression actually means is that woman is the root of all (male) problems, always to blame. Claudia von Alemann’s extraordinary Blind Spot (Die Reise nach Lyon, 1980), recently restored by the Deutsche Kinemathek in cooperation with the Institut Lumière, is a rare film that puts the pursuit of a woman at its heart—not so that she can be punished, not so that a man’s troubles can be explained, but so that her achievements might be rescued from oblivion and might, in the process, change another woman’s life.

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The Crowd Is Dead, Long Live the Crowd!

By Erika Balsom / December 22, 2020

By Erika Balsom for RMC 1.  It was a total coincidence and yet it felt freighted with meaning: when I returned to the cinema at the end of August after months of suffering with the small screen, the first two films I saw began with crowd scenes.  The streets of London were eerily empty as…

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In Search of the Female Gaze

By Erika Balsom / June 23, 2020

The trope of a woman removing her glasses to suddenly reveal her great beauty is as familiar as it is eye-roll-inducing. She never looks that different, but her status as an erotic object changes immediately and immensely. A classic example is Dorothy Malone as a bookstore clerk in The Big Sleep (1946), but more recently there is Rachel Leigh Cook descending the stairs to the saccharine sounds of “Kiss Me” in She’s All That (1999). Give up your active gaze, this convention seems to say, and you will be alluring.

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Far from Paradise: Nina Menkes’ Queen of Diamonds

By Erika Balsom / December 29, 2019

By Erika Balsom Diamonds are sharp and hard, rich in myth and violence, soaked in desire, totally under the putrid spell of money. They are, in other words, a lot like Las Vegas—especially as it appears in Nina Menkes’ searing 1991 film Queen of Diamonds. Across 75 taut minutes, Sin City’s fabulous hedonism recedes from…

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SaF05 (Charlotte Prodger, UK) — Wavelengths

By Erika Balsom / September 4, 2019

By Erika Balsom  Published in Cinema Scope #79 (Summer 2019) For Scotland’s pavilion at the Venice Biennale, Charlotte Prodger delivered the final installment in a trilogy of films begun with Stoneymollan Trail (2015) and her Turner Prize-winning BRIDGIT (2016). SaF05 is named after a maned lioness, a rare creature in Botswana that adopts typically male…

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Film/Art | Curses and Blessings: Moving Images at the 58th Venice Biennale

By Erika Balsom / June 27, 2019

By Erika Balsom I wouldn’t wish living in times like these on anyone. This, of course, is the irony of the title of Ralph Rugoff’s exhibition for this year’s Venice Biennale, “May You Live in Interesting Times.” On the surface, the phrase reads as a blessing; actually, it is a curse. Add to this the…

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Nervous Translation (Shireen Seno, Philippines)

By Erika Balsom / December 21, 2018

By Erika Balsom  Why is it that, when destined for adult audiences, narrative films about children so rarely accord their diminutive protagonists the privilege of inhabiting a world of their own? Place a child at the centre of a film, and type will frequently take hold, dictated by the law of genre: either he is…

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Visages villages (Agnès Varda & JR, France)

By Erika Balsom / March 16, 2018

By Erika Balsom The Normandy village of Pirou-Plage almost became a holiday destination. In 1990, property developer Pier Invest launched a plan to build a hotel, two tennis courts, and 80 vacation homes. The initiative would transform the built environment and economy of this seaside area of 1,500 inhabitants—but not as anticipated or desired. Within…

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