Cate Marquis

Cate Marquis is a film critic and historian based in the St. Louis, Missouri area. Marquis reviews film for the St. Louis Jewish Light weekly newspaper and Playback: stl website, as well as other publications. The daughter of artist Paul Marquis, she was introduced to classic and silent films by her father, as well as art and theater. Besides reviewing films, she lectures on film history, particularly the silent film era, has served on the board of the Meramec Classic Film Festival and is a long-time collaborator with the St. Louis International Film Festival, serving on various juries.

 

Articles by Cate Marquis

 

THE RAPE OF RECY TAYLOR — Review by Cate Marquis

recy taylor posterNancy Biurski’s timely documentary tells a personal story, of one woman’s brutal rape in 1944 rural Alabama, but then ties her individual experience to the larger themes of history, racism, sexism, white supremacy and patriarchy, in compelling and often surprising ways. Inspired in part by the book “At The Dark End Of The Street: Black Women, Rape and Resistance – a New History of the Civil Rights Movement from Rosa Parks to the Rise of Black Power” by Danielle L. McGuire, director Nancy Biurski skillfully blends the various elements into a documentary that is fascinating, informative and moving. Continue reading…

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THE TRIBES OF PALOS VERDES — Review by Cate Marquis

TRIBES OF PALOS VERDES POSTERTHE TRIBES OF PALOS VERDES is a drama about a family recently transplanted from the down-to-earth Midwest to the gated suburban beach community of Palos Verdes, California. It immerses the family in a kind of culture shock and only dad Phil (Justin Kirk), a cardiac surgery, is enthusiastic about the move. Nonetheless, mom Sandy (Jennifer Garner) and teen-aged fraternal twins Medina (Maika Monroe) and Jim (Cody Fern) are trying to make the best of it. Continue reading…

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THE DANCER — Review by Cate Marquis

the dancer dancer posterStephanie DiGusto’s THE DANCER depicts the story of Loie Fuller, a dance innovator of the late 19th and very early 20th centuries whose Serpentine dance of billowing costumes and lighting effects, made her world famous. If you have seen clips of early silent films, there is a fair chance you have seen a snippet of her striking, butterfly like dance. Her dance style, a precursor to modern dance, influenced another famous dancer, Isabelle Duncan, played by Lilly-Rose Depp (the daughter of Johnny Depp), who once studied with her and whom Fuller mentored. Continue reading…

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BOMBSHELL: THE HEDY LAMARR STORY –Review by Cate Marquis

If you use WiFi or GPS, you owe something to Hedy Lamarr. BOMBSHELL: HEDY LAMARR tells the astonishing story of Hedy Lamarr, the beautiful Hollywood star of the 1930s and 1940s who also invented frequency hopping, the idea behind the technology used GPS and Bluetooth. Filled with fascinating details about the life of this most unusual person, gifted with both good looks and brains, yet struggled to find recognition for the latter. Throughout the film, one is struck by how different her life might have been in another era, when she could have more easily pursued her real dream, of being an inventor. One is also struck by how her beauty was sometimes a barrier to her real ambitions. Continue reading…

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NOVITIATE — Review by Cate Marquis

novitiate posterNOVITIATE stars Margaret Qualley as Cathleen Norris, a 17-year-old raised by a non-religious single mother who nonetheless decides to enter a convent, and Melissa Leo as the Mother Superior of the strict cloistered order she chooses to join. Cathleen’s decision to follow a calling to the life religious coincides with the monumental changes of Vatican II. Director Margaret Betts offers a beautifully-shot, thoughtful drama, filled with some fine acting, particularly by Melissa Leo. Continue reading…

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THE DIVINE ORDER — Review by Cate Marquis

THE DIVINE ORDER POSTERTHE DIVINE ORDER is a tale about a group of ordinary women in a Switzerland village who fought for women to get the vote. The surprising part is that this battle for the right to vote took place in 1971. Since American women got the vote in 1920, it’s easy for us to assume Europe quickly followed. But it seems Switzerland missed out on the earlier wave of women’s rights. Which meant that in 1971, Switzerland was catching up on the 1960s Sexual Revolution and the budding 1970s women’s liberation movement, the second time in the 20th century women took to streets to demand their rights. Continue reading…

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TAKE MY NOSE…PLEASE! — Review by Cate Marquis

take my nose please posterEvery woman has a body part she hates, maybe more than one. That makes ripe material for women comics. Women comics who joke about plastic surgery – Joan Rivers, Phyllis Diller, others – are among those featured in TAKE MY NOSE….PLEASE but this wickedly funny and fearlessly thoughtful documentary delves deeper. Though humor and more serious personal stories, director Joan Kron (making her directorial debut at age 89!) explores the double standard of looks for women and men, particularly in the entertainment field, with age discrimination, and the age gap in between leading men and leading women in films. Continue reading…

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BATTLE OF THE SEXES — Review by Cate Marquis

Emma Stone gives a strong, appealing performance in BATTLE OF THE SEXES, a well-meaning if uneven film about the 1973 tennis match between tennis great Billy Jean King and Bobby Riggs. It is overstating it to call it a Billy Jean King biopic. Instead it focuses on a cultural pivot point when 29-year-old women’s tennis champion Billy Jean King (Stone) took part in a match against a clownish self-described male chauvinist named Bobby Riggs (Steve Carrell). But despite his buffoon behavior and penchant for wearing outlandish costumes during matches, Bobby Riggs was no ordinary clown on the court but a former tennis champ and Hall of Famer. The comedy distracted his opponents on the court, concealing the fact that at 55, Riggs was still a formidable tennis player. Continue reading…

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DOLORES — Review by Cate Marquis

Dolores Huerta, co-founder of the National Farm Workers Union, the person who coined the phrase “Yes, We Can” (“Si Se Puede”), a labor organizer instrumental in leading the 1960s grape boycott, and a social activist for Chicano, Native American and Latinos rights, should be a name everyone knows, as familiar as that of Caesar Chavez, the other co-founder of the National Farm Workers Union. Never heard of Dolores Huerta? Many people haven’t, and that’s the problem the new documentary DOLORES sets out to remedy. Continue reading…

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STRONG ISLAND — Review by Cate Marquis

strongislandposterSTRONG ISLAND is a documentary that seems at first to focus on a murder never prosecuted more than two decades later. But as we gradually discover, the documentary is really about the impact of that injustice on family left behind. No reason for the failure to charge the killer with murder is given to the victim’s middle-class, suburban Black parents but the fact that the 19-year-old shooter was White raises questions. Continue reading…

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SCHOOL LIFE — Review by Cate Marquis

school life posterSchool Life, also known as In Loco Parentis, is a charming little documentary focused on an old Irish boarding school and particularly on a long-married couple who serves as teachers, John and Amanda Leyden, who guide and chide their students with dry wit, like somewhat eccentric but warm-hearted grandparents. Those who saw, and were charmed by, the 2002 French documentary To Have and To Be, which followed a teacher in a rural school, will recognize the same immersive, un-narrated style and an equal amount of warm appeal. Continue reading…

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POLINA — Review by Cate Marquis

The French- and Russian-language drama Polina is a coming-of-age story about a promising young Russian ballerina named Polina in search of artistic fulfillment. But Polina‘s real appeal is not its story as much as its many moments of magical dance and fine choreography. Continue reading…

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DETROIT — Review by Cate Marquis

detroit posterIn Detroit, director Kathryn Bigelow spotlights the civil unrest that shook Detroit in the summer of 1967, and particularly the infamous events that took place at the Algiers Motel, when police abused a group of mostly black men and killed three. One would have hoped that 50 years on, we would be looking back those events and noting how far we have come. Sadly, that is not the case. Continue reading…

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PATTI CAKE$ — Review by Cate Marquis

PATTI CAKE$ is a winning underdog tale, about an overweight 23-year-old white woman whose youthful dreams of being a rapper are fading while she struggling to get by in lower working class New Jersey. Patti (Australian actress Danielle Macdonald) lives with, and takes care of, her hard-drinking, sometimes abusive mother (Bridget Everett) and wheelchair-bound Nana (Cathy Moriarty) in a cramped, squalid apartment. Patti supports them all working as bartender in a local dive bar. and her only escape is rapping and hanging-out with her only friend, fellow rapper Raneesh (Siddharth Dhananjay). She calls him Jheri and he calls her Killa P., but daily Patti stoically endures the neighborhood bullies who call her Dumbo. Together with a shy, angry black punk rocker (Mamoudou Athie ), Patti takes a last shot at her dream. Continue reading…

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STEP — Review by Cate Marquis

The inspirational documentary STEP follows a girls’ step dance team at a Baltimore charter high school, both in their quest to win a big step dance competition and to get into college. The story takes place in the shadow of the unrest and protests that gripped Baltimore in 2015 after the death of Freddie Gray. Echoes of Ferguson, Michael Brown and Black Lives Matter are present as well. Continue reading…

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500 YEARS — Review by Cate Marquis

Director Pamela Yates well-made, affecting 500 YEARS is the third and final film in her documentary series on Guatemala and the Mayan people’s ongoing struggle for democracy and justice in that country. Although the film is the third in the series, it stands well on its own, recapping critical points from the first two films. Clips from the first two films, WHEN THE MOUNTAINS TREMBLE and GRANITO: HOW TO NAIL A DICTATOR, are included in this final one. The first film, in 1983, actually provided evidence in the trial of former military leader and president Montt, that trial being the subject of the second film. Continue reading…

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THE MIDWIFE — Review by Cate Marquis

THE MIDWIFE POSTERTwo great Catherines – Deneuve and Frot – star in THE MIDWIFE, a thoughtful French-language tale of family, childhood memories, and changing life in modern France. As the title suggests, one of the central characters is a midwife, a profession with a long and honorable history bringing the next generation into this world. Claire (Catherine Frot) is a really good one, the best at the little clinic near Paris where she works, but the small old-fashioned clinic is closing down, unable to compete with the big modern hospital nearby. Claire resists the idea of going to work for the big hospital, as she resists so many other changes. At home, Claire put aside her own personal life to concentrate on raising her son, now a student in medical school. Continue reading…

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LETTERS FROM BAGHDAD — Review by Cate Marquis

Middle East experts often point to how national boundaries were drawn by European colonial powers after World War I as essential to understanding region’s modern tensions. A little known fact is that a British woman played a central role in the shaping of those boundaries – Iraq in particular. That woman, Gertrude Bell, is the focus of the documentary LETTERS FROM BAGHDAD from directors Zeva Oelbaum and Sabine Krayenbuhl. Continue reading…

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THE BEGUILED – Review by Cate Marquis

Sophia Coppola’s atmospheric period thriller THE BEGUILED is a re-make of a 1971 psycho-sexual thriller starring Clint Eastwood. Coppola re-frames the Civil War story from a woman’s viewpoint, where a wounded Union soldier is taken in by a house full of Southern women and girls at a young ladies’ boarding school in the rural South. What looks like a sexual fantasy come true for the soldier turns out less than dreamy. Continue reading…

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BAND AID — Review by Cate Marquis

A young married couple who just can’t stop arguing decide to turn their fights into songs, in the indie comedy BAND AID. Writer/director/producer Zoe Lister-Jones also stars in this film, her directorial debut. BAND AID is lifted by its well-done musical sequences, tuneful and surprisingly enjoyable, but the humor is more uneven. Continue reading…

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MEGAN LEAVEY — Review by Cate Marquis

MEGAN LEAVEY is a moving “girl and her dog” story, except the “girl” is actually a troubled young woman Marine struggling to find her footing and the dog is no sweet, friendly pooch but a military dog with talent for detecting explosives but a terrible temperament. Together they discover what neither could find on their own. Continue reading…

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SAMI BLOOD — Review by Cate Marquis

In her feature film debut SAMI BLOOD, director/writer Amanda Kernell offers a moving coming-of-age story of two sisters, members of the reindeer-herding indigenous Sami people, in 1930s Sweden. Told from the viewpoint of the older sister, a bright 14-year-old who dreams of becoming a teacher, the films depicts their experiences with the dominate Swedish culture who called her people Lapps, as a time when racial prejudice as well as eugenics, the pseudo-science of race biology which laid the groundwork for the Nazis, was common. Continue reading…

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TOMORROW EVER AFTER — Review by Cate Marquis

The indie science fiction comedy TOMORROW EVER AFTER offers some telling observations on modern life, through the eyes of a stranded time-traveler from the future. Good science fiction very often is a commentary on present-day life. Science fiction movies about a visitor from another time or place, sometimes as a way to comment on society, are nothing new either – think THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL – but what is a bit different in the case of TOMORROW EVER AFTER is that the visitor is from our own future. And TOMORROW EVER AFTER is nearly a one-woman show, with director/writer/editor Ela Thier also starring in her film. Continue reading…

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HEAL THE LIVING — Review by Cate Marquis

heal the living poster frenchThree narrative threads – parents facing with the accidental death of their 17-year-old son, the medical staff of an organ transplant team, and a middle-aged female musician dying of heart failure – are woven together in French director Katell Quillévéré’s medical drama HEAL THE LIVING. This is the third and most polished of her films, her previous works being SUZANNE AND LOVE LIKE POISON. Read on…

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THE ZOOKEEPER’S WIFE — Review by Cate Marquis

The Zookeeper’s Wife is not only an inspirational true story told through a lush historical film but a women’s cinema trifecta: A female star in the lead role, a woman director and a woman author. The director is Niki Caro, who rose to fame with Whale Rider, another film with a determined female central character, and the film is adapted from Diane Ackerman’s book of the same name. The star is Jessica Chastain, who plays Antonina Zabinska, a little-known hero during the Holocaust, who ran the Warsaw zoo alongside her husband Jan in pre-World War II Poland. When the Nazis invade their country, Antonina and her husband sheltered hundreds of Jewish men, women and children in their home on the zoo grounds, and therefore saved their lives. Read on…

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