Alexandra Heller-Nicholas’ Rape-Revenge Films: A Critical Study – Book Review by Marietta Steinhart (Guest Post)

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I remember when I was introduced to rape-revenge tales very, very vividly, almost twenty years ago. The film was Gaspar Noé’s Irréversible. It stars Vincent Cassel and Monica Bellucci, who were married in real life at the time, and it features one of the most disturbing rape scenes ever filmed. It’s an image that is burned into my brain forever – for better or worse. Most people could not stomach watching Bellucci get brutally beaten and raped in a single, nine-minute-long shot, and famously walked out of the theater in Cannes. In an equally unsettling scene, a man’s face is being bashed in blow-by-blow with a fire extinguisher. To me, it was a love story.

To mark the ten-year anniversary of her compelling book Rape-Revenge Films: A Critical Study, that also discusses this drama, Australian film critic Alexandra Heller-Nicholas (who is a member of AWFJ) has released a seriously revised, second edition, including an exciting new chapter on women-directed rape-revenge films before and after the #MeToo Era, including such new projects as Coralie Fargeat’s Revenge and Violation directed by Madeleine Sims-Fewer and Dusty Mancinelli. A lot has happened since 2011 and if the author sounds angry, she says, it’s because she is.

The first edition had Zoë Lund holding a .45 Magnum in Ms .45 on the cover. In Abel Ferrara’s glorious film Lund plays a mute, young woman named Thana, who saws her rapist into pieces and puts his body parts in the fridge, to then gun down every scumbag that crosses her way in the streets of New York. Every day she takes out another garbage bag, one by one, and deposits it somewhere in the city. Do I want so see a woman taking out rapist trash? Yes, please.

As controversial as this may sound these tales can be – if well done – very cathartic. Continue reading on THE FEMALE GAZE.

ABOUT MARIETTA STEINHART: Born and raised in Vienna, Marietta Steinhart is a New York City based film critic, contributing to Zeit Online, among other media, covering US cinema and TV. She’s an esteemed member of The International Federation of Film Critics and a frequent juror in Film Festivals.

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Jennifer Merin

Jennifer Merin is the Film Critic for Womens eNews and contributes the CINEMA CITIZEN blog for and is managing editor for Women on Film, the online magazine of the Alliance of Women Film Journalists, of which she is President. She has served as a regular critic and film-related interviewer for The New York Press and About.com. She has written about entertainment for USA Today, The L.A. Times, US Magazine, Ms. Magazine, Endless Vacation Magazine, Daily News, New York Post, SoHo News and other publications. After receiving her MFA from Tisch School of the Arts (Grad Acting), Jennifer performed at the O'Neill Theater Center's Playwrights Conference, Long Wharf Theater, American Place Theatre and LaMamma, where she worked with renown Japanese director, Shuji Terayama. She subsequently joined Terayama's theater company in Tokyo, where she also acted in films. Her journalism career began when she was asked to write about Terayama for The Drama Review. She became a regular contributor to the Christian Science Monitor after writing an article about Marketta Kimbrell's Theater For The Forgotten, with which she was performing at the time. She was an O'Neill Theater Center National Critics' Institute Fellow, and then became the institute's Coordinator. While teaching at the Universities of Wisconsin and Rhode Island, she wrote "A Directory of Festivals of Theater, Dance and Folklore Around the World," published by the International Theater Institute. Denmark's Odin Teatret's director, Eugenio Barba, wrote his manifesto in the form of a letter to "Dear Jennifer Merin," which has been published around the world, in languages as diverse as Farsi and Romanian. Jennifer's culturally-oriented travel column began in the LA Times in 1984, then moved to The Associated Press, LA Times Syndicate, Tribune Media, Creators Syndicate and (currently) Arcamax Publishing. She's been news writer/editor for ABC Radio Networks, on-air reporter for NBC, CBS Radio and, currently, for Westwood One's America In the Morning. She is also a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association. For her AWFJ archive, type "Jennifer Merin" in the Search Box (upper right corner of screen).