This is the twentieth film I have watched in "My Letterboxd Season Challenge 2023-24", "A 33 week long challenge where the goal each week is to watch a previously unseen feature length film from a specified category." This is the 9th annual challenge, and my fifth time participating (previous years can be found at "2019-20", "2020-21", "2021-22", and "2022-23"). Week 20 is called "The Female Gaze Week":
The numbers, as you can probably imagine, are terrible. The Celluloid Ceiling reports that only 7% of the top 250 highest-grossing movies in 2022 employed female cinematographers. A lousy seven percent! Hearteningly, women continue making slow but steady inroads into the industry, but still, it could be a lot better. After all, a wide range of backgrounds, perspectives, and life experiences make for a far more varied and rewarding cinematic landscape; we should all consider ourselves blessed to see the world through someone else's eyes.
In that spirit, this week's challenge is to watch a film lensed by a woman. Lola Landekić's list, The Female Gaze, or: 100 Films by Female Cinematographers, is a good place to start, but any film with a female DP is fair game.
Chloë Grace Moretz has snuck up on me. I don't think of her as one of my favorites, although I loved her so much in Kick-Ass that I made her my Facebook avatar. But The Miseducation of Cameron Post is the 7th movie with Moretz I have seen, and while she's not always the lead, the movies are often quite good, and she usually stands out. About Kick-Ass, I wrote, "the #1 reason to watch Kick-Ass is Chloë Grace Moretz." She was one of the best things in Scorsese's Hugo, and she carries the action movie Shadow in the Cloud.
Moretz is the titular Cameron Post, a teenager caught making out with another girl at her prom, who is sent to a "conversion" camp. The film is more low-key than you'd expect ... the "camp" is creepy and quietly abusive of the kids, but the film is more a character study of young people than it is a diatribe against conversion therapy. In a scene where Cameron is questioned by an investigator after one of the kids tries to kill himself, she explains how the camp works on the teens. She says she feels safe, but that she doesn't trust the staff members. Asked if she thinks the staff has her best interests in mind, she replies, "No one's, you know, beating us. But you asked me if I trust them. And sure, I trust them to drive the van safely, and I trust them to buy food." Told that the investigator isn't there to examine the mission of the facility "unless that includes abuse or neglect", Cameron asks, "Yeah, but what about emotional abuse?" Moretz speaks softly, but her face speaks loudly ... she wears that emotional abuse where we can see it.
The challenge this week was to watch a film with a female cinematographers, and the reference to a female gaze is appropriate. But the collaborative nature of film making means I can't always separate the contributions of the various crew members from the writer and director. Director Desiree Akhavan co-wrote the screenplay with Cecilia Frugiuele, from a novel by Emily M. Danforth, with Ashley Connor as cinematographer. Who is ultimately responsible for the film? All of them, although it's the standard that we start with the director (this was Akhavan's second feature, although she has worked frequently in television). I think a director's job is partly to elicit good performances from the cast, and you get that here, not just from Moretz, but from almost everyone (Jennifer Ehle is a bit stereotypical as the villain).
The Miseducation of Cameron Post won't beat you over the head, and some might wish there was more of that kind of style. It won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance, but there was no big fight to get distribution rights, and it wasn't ever shown much in theaters, meaning it lost money, even with a budget of under $1 million. It deserves more attention than it got. The Miseducation of Cameron Post hides in that place between good and great movies, it's worth seeing, and Moretz is once again a standout.