Fascinating Female Character Studies now at GOMA Cinema

BLOG-Lead image for In Character MR
Production still from Boom! 1968 / Director: Joseph Losey / Image: Courtesy: Universal Pictures

To complement the major ‘Cindy Sherman’ exhibition at GOMA, the Gallery’s Australian Cinémathèque will present ‘In Character’, a program of more than 65 films focusing on ideas and personas also reflected in Sherman’s photography.

As the exhibition of leading international artist Cindy Sherman features headshots of Hollywood stereotypes, society portraits, fashion socialites and clowns, ‘In Character’ will present a selection of films exploring exaggerated expressions of female identity. The program presents a complex characterisation of women in cinema and revisit cinema’s boldest female characters. Audiences will see some of Hollywood’s most fearless actresses deliver unforgettable portrayals of women in art and daily life.

In addition, ‘In Character’ will present a special one-off cinema presentation of iconic TV sitcom Absolutely Fabulous 1992, the celebrated video montages of Australian artist Tracey Moffatt, and a series of live Variety Hours focused around women, comedy and television. Many of the films in the program offer audacious depictions of female empowerment, autonomy, sexuality and filial responsibility.

The scope of ‘In Character’ is wide and star studded. It includes seminal performances by actresses including Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard 1950, Elizabeth Taylor in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? 1966, Faye Dunaway in Mommie Dearest 1981, Isabelle Adjani in Possession 1981, and Scarlett Johansson in Under the Skin 2013.

One focus of ‘In Character’, Hollywood Babylon, considers ideas of fame and infamy with images of struggling actresses and fading stars; overbearing celebrity mums and female rivalry; obsessions with age, glamour and masquerade; and the allure of notoriety.

The Lady of the House, another focus, looks at narratives in the domestic sphere; eccentric lives lived in cloistered spaces; the power dynamics between maids and their employers; and the experiences of psychological and physical captivity. It includes Catherine Deneuve in Repulsion 1965, Edie Bouvier Beale and her mother Little Edie in Grey Gardens 1975, Kathy Bates in Misery 1990, Julianne Moore in Safe 1995, Essie Davis in The Babadook 2014 and more.

The third focus, Dangerous Relations, considers the depiction of difficult and unconventional relationships through films including Mildred Pierce 1945, Harold and Maude 1971, Basic Instinct 1992, The Piano Teacher 2001 and Mommy 2014.

Finally, Women In Revolt features stories of women behaving badly and finding newfound freedom by rejecting social expectations. Included are performances by Mae West (I’m No Angel 1933), Sissy Spacek (Carrie 1976), Kathleen Turner (Crimes of Passion 1984) and Penélope Cruz (Volver 2006), along with Sherman’s directorial debut Office Killer 1997.

Tracey Moffatt’s video montages mine classic Hollywood cinema to create ironic commentaries on the roles of mothers, servants and ideas of love, lust and revenge.