Life & Culture

Brainwashed: Sex-Camera-Power The male gaze explored

Acclaimed Jewish American filmmaker Nina Menkes delves deep into what this term represents in a post #metoo film industry


Feminist film theorists have been exploring the subject of the “male gaze” and its various implications on our day-to-day lives ever since the term was coined in a 1975 essay titled Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema by British-born film theorist Laura Mulvey.

In this new documentary acclaimed Jewish American filmmaker Nina Menkes delves deep into what those terms represent in a post #metoo film industry marred by inequality, sexism and the lack of gender parity behind the camera.

Menkes interviews the legendary Mulvey as well as a whole host of women filmmakers including Never Rarely Sometimes Always director Eliza Hittman, comedienne Charlyne Yi, actress and #MeToo campaigner Rosanna Arquette, Twilight director Catherine Hardwicke and many more.

Using almost 200 film clips from canonical classic movies, from 1896 to the present day, Menkes presents a film that is part powerpoint lecture, part talking head interviews. In it she exposes how shot design itself has been used throughout the decades to perpetuate the heterosexual male gaze and therefore representing the female experience from a sexist binary

While not completely absolving female directors from using the same sexist male-centric methods to tell their stories — Menkes cites, among other examples, that of Julia Ducournau’s Palme d’Or winner Titane and Kathryn Bigelow’s Oscar-winning The Hurt Locker — she does reserve the bulk of her criticism towards the likes of the usual suspects, Jean-Luc Godard and Martin Scorsese et al. It’s what you’d expect, but well-explained.

Menkes’ film features some brilliantly intricate scene deconstructions of some of our most beloved movies.

She delves deep into Hollywood’s obsession with the female body and its continued sexist representation of young women as objects of desire.

And while her film often feels a little too one-sided, there is still a lot here to enjoy and give you much to think about, whether you’re a film buff or just an average cinema goer.

Brainwashed: Sex-Camera-Power
Cert: 18 | ★★★★✩

Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive