Sunday, 8 November 2009


In this rhythmic adaptation of Charles Baudelaire’s poem of the same name, a secretive married woman enters a nightclub, dressed in a long fur coat which covers most of her body. Through a supposed peephole, we see a sailor dancing a jig on stage. The woman, looking on with eyes agape, receives a menu as a lascivious sailor watches her. The cocktail list appears on screen, first in Hebrew, then Russian, then Arabic, and finally in English. The screen then splits in two, the sailor’s vigilant face breaking with desire on the left-hand side as a series of drinks presents itself on the right. We see the woman in what appears to be her living room, knitting as her husband reads the newspaper. Snapping back into the present, the woman buys a drink and soon finds herself submitting to the advances of the sailor who had his eye on her throughout the film.

Feminist director Germaine Dulac, later renowned for her divisive surrealist film The Seashell and the Clergyman, here creates a mildly intriguing world of feminine desire, the likes of which had almost never been witnessed on screen before. But despite her daring use of the female gaze, Dulac ultimately accepts that the male gaze will always dominate by privileging the sailor’s point of view towards the end, though it has been suggested that the film is Dulac’s attempt to create a ‘visual symphony’, and that the feminist nuances are merely an extension of her reading of the poem.

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