Last night, the Yale Film Colloquium kicked off its fall semester with a coven — a gathering of witches — under the guise of a German ballet school.
Curated by graduate students in Yale’s Film and Media Studies program, the colloquium’s fall series, “Bad Girls,” began Tuesday evening with Dario Argento’s “Suspiria,” a 1977 horror film that follows a ballet student named Suzy who investigates a series of murders at her school. Over 100 Yale and New Haven community members attended the screening, which was held at the Whitney Humanities Center.
Head of Programming Kirsty Dootson GRD ’19 said she believes that “Suspiria” subverts conventional elements of horror movies, noting that the film swaps male violence against women for female violence against women. Yale Classroom Technology and Media Specialist Tony Sudol introduced the film, noting that in spite of Argento’s controversial portrayals of women, the filmmaker does not depict women in a misogynistic manner.
“Women are heroes, men are heroes,” Sudol said. “Women are killers, men are killers. So it’s an equal opportunity here for insanity.”
Dootson said she was inspired to create the series after watching the 1945 Technicolor melodrama “Leave Her to Heaven.” The film features a female protagonist who becomes so possessive of her husband that “she basically gets rid of anyone in her way,” from drowning his brother to inducing a miscarriage, Dootson explained.
According to Dootson, films like “Leave Her to Heaven,” which contains dark but fascinating female characters who behave in a taboo manner through actions such as cross-dressing and highway robbing, originally had audiences composed mainly of women. Dootson said critics who suggest that the “Bad Girls” series caters only to patriarchal, negative presentations of women fail to recognize that these female characters achieve on-screen what the women in the audience are not allowed to do in real life.
Zelda Roland GRD ’16 described the female characters of such films as “complicated, dark, driven women [and] anti-women.”
“Bad Girls” features women behind the camera as well, Dootson noted. The series will show photographer Cindy Sherman’s “Office Killer” — a film about a proofreader at a magazine who murders a number of her co-workers to combat her loneliness — accompanied by a panel discussion on how the film fits into her larger body of work as an artist. In addition, the colloquium will showcase a number of short films made by female filmmakers from across the world, who submitted their works to be featured in the series. The submissions include documentaries, music videos and experimental films on a variety of subjects from transgender rights to playground fights, Dootson explained.
Roland said that the series’ VHS night in November, which will screen Lee Tso-Nam’s “The Challenge of the Lady Ninja,” will highlight Sterling Memorial Library’s recent acquisition of 2,700 VHS tapes. She added that occasions such as VHS night are rare in film screening events, which do not often show films in VHS format.
Roland emphasized that she thinks the Yale Film Colloquium harbors an exuberant film community otherwise largely missing at Yale.
“I think that with each film, it will be exciting to see faculty, graduate students and undergrads participate in this informal way to interact with an art form that we study and worship and that has become, sadly, less and less accessible.” Roland said. “Communal movie watching is not something you can replicate at home.”
“Gilda,” the next film in the “Bad Girls” series, will be shown on Sept. 19.