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

 

MARY SHELLEY — Review by Cate Marquis

It is a bit surprising that no one else has made a movie about English author Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley and the writing of her book Frankenstein, arguably the first science fiction novel. Interestingly, it is Haifaa Al-Mansour, a ground-breaking woman who directs Mary Shelley. Al-Mansour is the first Saudi woman director, and the film’s script is by another woman, Emma Jensen. Elle Fanning plays Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin, the teen girl who falls for poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, an admirer of her radical philosopher father William Godwin. Continue reading...

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MOUNTAIN — Review by Cate Marquis

Mountain starts in a different way from most films about mountains and their majesty. Instead of opening with mountains, we see black and white images of an orchestra tuning up and actor Willem Dafoe preparing to deliver his narration as the opening credits roll. Then there is a brief quote, “Those who dance are considered mad by those who cannot hear the music,” and the mountains make their entrance. Perhaps that opening quote describes those who risk all just to climb the planet’s highest peaks. Continue reading…

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RBG – Review by Cate Marquis

RBG POSTERThis documentary gives us the low-down on this brilliant but reserved attorney who is having an unlikely turn as a cultural darling. The documentary RBG starts out with clips of Republican or politically-conservative men reviling Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg as if she were the devil incarnate. For these right-leaning white men, she may well be just that, or at least their worst nightmare, a characterization the small but mighty RBG might embrace, or maybe even relish. Continue reading…

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LET THE SUNSHINE IN — Review by Cate Marquis

Juliette Binoche plays a middle-aged Parisian artist who is searching for true love, the French-language Let the Sunshine In. Director Claire Denis takes us on as emotional journey with Binoche, one that leads more to self discovery and insights than romance, as her character explores romantic possibilities. Surprisingly, this is the first film collaboration of these two giants of French cinema. The film is billed as romantic comedy but the comedy is both subtle and very French. Also very French are the conversations, which often tend towards the philosophical and world weariness, with a dash of idealistic hope. Continue reading…

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LITTLE PINK HOUSE — Review by Cate Marquis

A pink house is not for everyone but it was just right for Susette Kelo, especially with a lovely river view. When a local economic redevelopment organization tries to seize the Connecticut cottage she so lovingly rehabbed for a project to lure a Big Pharma company to the financially-strapped town, she fights – all the way to the Supreme Court. Continue reading…

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MABEL MABEL TIGER TRAINER — Review by Cate Marquis

MABELMABELPOSTERMabel Mabel Tiger Trainer tells the surprising, forgotten story of the first woman tiger trainer, Mabel Stark. Born into poverty in Tennessee and growing up the daughter of a sharecropper in Kentucky, Mabel lost her father as a child and later her mother before she essentially ran away with the circus. Mabel fell in love with tigers when she first saw one in California, and against strong opposition and the prevailing belief that women could not handle big cats under the big top, she did just that. Not only did she succeed in learning how to train tigers by the “kindness method,” Mabel and her tigers eventually became the star act with Ringling Brothers. Continue reading…

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OUTSIDE IN — Review by Cate Marquis

Writer/director Lynn Shelton and co-writer Jay Duplass craft an intriguing, moving drama about the emotional bond between a man just released on parole after 20 years and his former teacher who worked tirelessly for his release. Continue reading…

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MADAME — Review by Cate Marquis

Madame is a French comedy of manners from writer/director Amanda Sther, that plays with what happens when a wealthy hostess suddenly discovers that she needs one more dinner guest to avoid having the unlucky number 13, and decides to pass off her maid as one of the guests. But this is no costume drama set in the 18th century – this story takes place in modern Paris, with Harvey Keitel and Toni Collette playing the wealthy American couple, living in a Paris mansion. Continue reading…

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IN THE LAND OF POMEGRANATES — Review by Cate Marquis

LAND OF POMEGRAATES POSTERThe conflict between the Palestinians and the Israelis is one of the intractable conflicts of the world. Even naming the country is fraught with emotion. If you say Israel, Palestinians object, and if you say Palestine, Israelis protest. Finding a path to peace is very rocky going. Director Hava Kohav Beller’s In The Land of Pomegranates examines that conflict in a human and evenhanded way, though the voices and experiences of people on both sides. The documentary’s title refers to Gaza, an area known for growing pomegranates. Pomegranates are considered a symbol of rebirth but “pomegranate” is also slang for a hand grenade. Continue reading…

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CLAIRE’S CAMERA — Review by Cate Marquis

South Korean director Hong Sangsoo takes us to the Cannes Film Festival, not for a tale of red carpets and glittering parties but a quiet little contemplative drama about people on the fringes of the festival. Claire’s Camera is a South Korean/French production in Korean, English and a little French. Claire is Isabelle Huppert, playing a teacher from Paris who is attending the Cannes Film Festival with a friend who has a film in the festival. At loose ends, Claire meets and instantly bonds with another person on the other side of the velvet rope, a young South Korean film sales associate, Manhee (Kim Minhee). Continue reading…

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OH LUCY! — Review by Cate Marquis

oh lucy posterDirector Atsuko Hirayanagi makes a strong feature film debut with “Oh Lucy,” a Japanese dramedy with a darker, absurdist undercurrent. Hirayanagi’s film is a tale of a middle-aged single Japanese women gaining a new view of life after signing up for a course to learn English that requires her to don a curly blonde wig and adopt a new identity as “Lucy.” Hirayanagi focuses on a type of character often overlooked and offers her unexpected second chance in life. The director also peppers her film with little absurdities alternating with some moments of bracing darkness. Continue reading…

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HALF MAGIC — Review by Cate Marquis

Three women with “man troubles” and low self esteem decide to form a team to both make their sex lives better and get what they really want in their love relationships, with a little help from some “magic candles,” in Heather Graham’s female-centric romantic comedy Half Magic. Continue reading…

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THAT’S NOT ME — Review by Cate Marquis

In the Australian comedy, That’s Not Me, Alice Foulcher plays Polly, a struggling actor in Melbourne whose life is turned upside down when her twin sister Amy, also an actor, sudden launches into international fame. Ironically, the role that gave Amy the exposure she needed to win a part in a big movie was a part in a soap opera that Polly had turned down. Continue reading…

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A FANTASTIC WOMAN — Review by Cate Marquis

A Fantastic Woman begins on a romantic note, with an older man listening to a singer with a band. In high heels, short skirt, and a golden voice, Marina Vidal is pretty but there is something a bit different her. The couple go out, then back home. Late at night, the man awakens and doesn’t feel well. Despite a desperate rush to the hospital, Marina loses her beloved to an aneurysm. In her grief, Marina faces a new problem, her older lover Orlando’s (Francisco Reyes) disapproving family, and then police who seem overly interested in her gender. Continue reading…

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MARY AND THE WITCH’S FLOWER — Review by Cate Marquis

Mary and the Witch’s Flower is a gorgeously animated Japanese film about a red-headed English girl named Mary who follows a black cat into the forest behind her great aunt’s country house, and finds herself transported into a magical world of witches. Continue reading…

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THE SHAPE OF WATER — review by Cate Marquis

Magical, evocative and haunting, THE SHAPE OF WATER blends Cold War thriller, fairy tale and monster movie genres in director Guillermo Del Toro’s best film since PAN’S LABYRINTH, as well as one of the year’s best. Continue reading…

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THE POST — Review by Cate Marquis

Steven Spielberg delivers a remarkable and timely film about freedom of the press, a story set in 1971 that has striking echoes for the present. President Nixon, who disdains the press, seeks to prevent publication of embarrassing secret government documents that expose decades of deceit of the American people on the Vietnam War. Continue reading…

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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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