Links: bright ghosts and plausible women

“The bright ghosts of antiquity.”

The gist of an old joke—it has a dozen local iterations—is that the Loeb Classical Library translations are so baffling that you have to consult the original Greek or Latin on the left-hand page to decipher the English translation on the right.

“THE HANDMAIDEN trailer: It’s the Korean Gothic-Lesbian Revenge Thriller We Deserve.”

Now you can see the madness for yourself with the first official trailer. Directed by Park Chan-Wook, the film centers around two women in the 1930s — a secluded and wealthy Japanese heiress, and her newly hired, young Korean handmaiden — as the latter attempts to defraud the former out of her large inheritance with the help of a con man. However, things take an unexpected and sinister turn when the two ladies begin to fall in love.

“The Plausible Diversity of Apples.”

One of the more common arguments raised by anti-diversity advocates is the futility of tokenism – the idea that giving a single show a black female lead for the sake of filling a quota is both insulting and unnecessary. And I quite agree: tokenism isn’t the answer. What we want is to reach a point where there are so many black female protagonists – and queer protagonists, and protagonists of every other type and variation listed above and a great many more besides, in every permutation – that none of them could ever again be reasonably viewed as a token anything. Because, in this scenario, when writers are considering who could be the protagonist, they’re giving equal consideration to every type of person, and not just forcing themselves to look, however briefly, beyond the narrow, familiar confines of an historical default.

“How To Suppress Female Characters.”

Arguing that a story isn’t “feminine enough” to warrant a female protagonist when you’re simultaneously concerned that women makes stories unnecessarily gendered is… kind of breathtakingly hypocritical, really.

Les femmes de l’ombre (2008) a film by Jean-Paul Salomé.

The English release is known as Female Agents, which is a much less striking title than The Women of Shadow. Starring Sophie Marceau, Julie Depardieu, Marie Gillain, Déborah François, Moritz Bleibtrau, Maya Sansa, and Julien Boisselier, it is the story of a group of women recruited by the SOE and sent in to France to rescue an English agent and assassinate a German SS colonel.

Salomé allegedly took his inspiration in part from the life of Lise de Baissac. The film itself is afflicted by several dozen things which make no sense for history but make rather a lot of sense in the compressed time/space of a film – although it relies on coincidence a little too much on one particular occasion. It is visually striking, although there are one or two shots that lend themselves to confusion/over-emphasis – the director has reached for the most striking, most iconic image, and reached a bit too far. At times it sways towards hackneyed emotional beats, but on the whole it resists them in favour of something much more raw.

(I’d love to see what someone with more critical chops in cinema made of it.)

It is not a perfect film, and its has a lot to do on a moderate budget. (Including some understated but nasty torture scenes.) But it is a damn good one, and I recommend it wholeheartedly – especially to anyone who read and enjoyed Code Name Verity and/or Rose Under Fire.