“Our Body” & “We Kill for Love”
In the almost three-hour-long epic "Our Body", French director Claire Simon documents a public Parisian hospital, following the doctors and their relationships with various patients who are women dealing with pregnancies, illnesses, gender-affirming care, abortions, breast cancer, and more.
The film reminded me of the best of Frederick Wiseman, where we get an exhaustive view of an institution and how it works, but there is a subtle, almost ephemeral poetic element as well. The focus on the humanity of the patients and the staff, along with gentle interruptions and quick contemplative movements that Simon captures with her camera, make the film an insightful, curious, and caring experience.
In a world where women's needs are often put second, Claire Simon makes their struggles the star, along with their bodies. The literal vessels that our consciousness exists in are often full of shame, and in society, we often don’t discuss them. However, this film is focused on it. I feel like this film transcends its form and becomes something like a mirror. Yet, this film is also very honest and vulnerable for the filmmaker herself. There is a lot of her in this film; we feel her behind the camera, and then she becomes a part of the film herself.
Our Body is beautifully shot, and the soundscape layered with the background commotion of a hospital, the beeps of machines, the intimate and vulnerable conversations between doctor and patient, there are times where we hear the filmmaker ask questions and we hear light additions of a musical store, pulled back in the mix, but its rarity adds to the effectiveness.
"Our Body" is a masterclass in vérité or observational filmmaking, but it's also much more, the 3 times that Simon appears in the film, adds an intimacy that is often missing in vérité documentaries, it transcends observation and becomes participatory. I loved this film, it feels like a revelation and I plan to dive more into the Claire Simon cannon in the coming months.
Our Body is now playing at Film Streams.
We Kill for Love
The history of cinema is a vast web of loosely defined genres, sub-genres, essays, critiques, and discussions about those films. One of the almost forgotten sub-genres is the straight-to-video or made-for-cable erotic thriller, which was prominent on video store shelves and late-night cable throughout the late 80s and 90s. The new documentary, "We Kill For Love," is a nearly three-hour essay documentary that traces the history of this genre. It highlights the key films, filmmakers, and actors that made these films and investigates the impact these films had, as well as the artistry or lack thereof in the latter days of this genre.
As someone who has seen thousands of films, spent a majority of my adult life making them, reading books about them, and diving into genres and understanding filmmakers, I consider myself well-versed in film. However, this is the first documentary I've watched about cinema where I can say I have seen less than 10% of the films discussed. This movie is exhaustive in its research and thrilling in its approach. Watching this documentary felt like a dream, something that exists on a different plane, not unlike coming across one of these films late at night and being pulled in by a story that is almost surreal in its absurdity but thrilling in its investigation of the human condition.
"We Kill For Love" tracks the erotic thriller genre from the film noirs like Double Indemnity in the early-to-mid-century to the rise of romance novels. There is an argument to be made that the rise of the genre in the 80s and 90s is a direct response to the death of the era of free love in the 70s and the rise of AIDS, which made sexuality feel dangerous.
The films were known for their blend of sexuality and violence. They often featured titles like Hidden Obsession, Secret Games, Body Heat, or any number of combinations to evoke mystery and titillation. These films would go on to inspire much more mainstream versions of these films that are also investigated here, like Fatal Attraction and Basic Instinct.
This film approaches these works with a curiosity and vigor that is engrossing and exhilarating to witness and it puts a face on the films that almost felt like they were made anonymously when you happened upon them. If you're curious about these films or a genre that has basically disappeared with the video store and the proliferation of the internet, this is the film for you.
"We Kill For Love" is now available on VOD.