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Directors cut-up: Female comedians put films to the test • Brooklyn Paper

Directors cut-up: Female comedians put films to the test

Femme force: Comedians Langan Kingsley (left) and Phoebe Robinson will examine the role of women in the male-written films “Amelie” and “Annie Hall” at Videology on Aug. 15.
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

Are they leading ladies or just tokens?

A group of female comedians and film critics will skewer underlying sexism in two movies that feature eponymous female protagonists during “Girl Talk” at Williamsburg venue Videology on Aug. 15. The panel of four women who write for, act in, and professionally criticize movies and television will put “Annie Hall” and “Amelie” — both named for their lady leads but written and directed by dudes — to the Bechdel Test, a set of criteria developed by queer cartoonist Alison Bechdel in 1985 that sets a minimum bar for female participation in a film. The comedians aim to point out Hollywood’s dire need of strong female roles, one of the panelists said.

“I’m always on the lookout for fully realized female characters who have wants and needs outside of being the girlfriend who follows a guy around saying ‘Oh you rascal with your funny adventures,’ ” said Park Slope comedian Phoebe Robinson, who recently appeared on Comedy Central hit “Broad City.”

The three-part Bechdel Test asks whether a film has (1) two or more female characters (2) who talk to each other (3) about something other than men. In some versions, the ladies need to be named characters rather than bit parts.

Organizers plan to play select clips from the flicks and let the comedians point out where they fall flat.

“Amelie” meets Bechdel’s parameters, but “Annie Hall” barely passes — there are two scenes that stand up to the test only if you do not apply the stricter naming criteria, this paper found.

But the funnywomen’s discussion will delve deeper than Bechdel’s three-part survey, they said.

For instance, the titular character in “Annie Hall,” played by Diane Keaton, is an example of a well-rounded female character despite the movie only minimally satisfying Bechdel’s test, Robinson said.

“Diane Keaton is her own character, obviously she impacts Woody Allen’s character a lot, but she still stands on her own — there’s substance to her, and I wish there was more of that,” she said.

Observations about the 1977 movie won’t be limited to Keaton’s character. Allegations that Woody Allen sexually abused his step daughter Dylan Farrow will no doubt come up, an organizer said.

“We’re putting a 2015 lens on things,” said Slope comedian Langan Kingsley. “When you talk about ‘Annie Hall,’ do you still like it knowing what you know about Woody Allen?”

Ultimately, “Girl Talk” is less about condemning the movies, and more about generating a dialogue, she said.

“We’re mostly trying to be funny, but also, by looking at this history of film, it hopefully brings up that there is a lack of a female voice there,” Kingsley said.

“Girl Talk: Comedians Put Films to the Bechdel Test” at Videology (308 Bedford Ave. at S. First Street in Williamsburg, www.videology.info). Aug. 15 at 7 pm. Free.

Reach reporter Max Jaeger at mjaeger@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–8303. Follow him on Twitter @JustTheMax.
Film test: The first part of what is now known as the Bechdel test, expressed in a panel from a 1985 “Dykes to Watch Out For” comic strip.
Alison Bechdel

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