Butter on the Latch (2013)

Butter on the Latch
Director: Josephine Decker
Writer: Josephine Decker
Cast: Sarah Small, Isolde Chae-Lawrence, Charlie Hewson, Emily Decker, Stephan Goldbach, Yury Yakor
Seen on: 13.3.2021

Plot:
Sarah (Sarah Small) lives the hectic New York Life behind for a few days to spend it with her friend Isolde (Isolde Chae-Lawrence) at a Balkan song and dance camp that takes place in the middle of a forest. They spend their days talking and drumming and singing and talking some more – until they have a falling out over an apparent triviality and Sarah starts pursuing Steph (Charlie Hewson).

Butter on the Latch is Decker’s debut feature and having seen (almost all) her films now in (almost) reverse chronological order, it is clear how much she has grown as a filmmaker since her first film. But that doesn’t mean that Butter on the Latch doesn’t have good qualities. It is still a very strong debut.

The film poster showing a drawing of two women holding each other surrounded by swirls and swirls of hair.
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Thou Wast Mild and Lovely (2014)

Thou Wast Mild and Lovely
Director: Josephine Decker
Writer: Josephine Decker, David Barker
Cast: Joe Swanberg, Sophie Traub, Robert Longstreet, Kristin Slaysman, Matt Orme, Geoff Marslett, Erica McClure, Shelley Delaney, Brooklyn Shuck, Raleigh Shuck, Bennett Alderdice
Seen on: 27.02.2021

Plot:
Akin (Joe Swanberg) comes to work on the farm of Jeremiah (Robert Longstreet) and his daughter Sarah (Sophie Traub). Jeremiah and Sarah are an odd pair. Jeremiah is always on the verge of insulting and ridiculing Akin, and Sarah seems to be only half in reality. Akin settles in awkwardly, especially since he is hiding that he is actually married. Sarah seems interested in Akin, and Akin starts to be drawn to her as well, but there is a touch of violence to everything.

Thou Wast Mild & Lovely is an unusual film that cultivates a sense of “everything being off” until things really escalate in a suprisingly bloody way in the end. It’s not the easiest thing you can watch, but it is worth thinking about.

the film poster showing a thick carpet of flowers with a pair of lips.
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Shirley (2020)

Shirley
Director: Josephine Decker
Writer: Sarah Gubbins
Based on: Susan Scarf Merrell‘s novel
Cast: Elisabeth Moss, Odessa Young, Michael Stuhlbarg, Logan Lerman
Part of: Viennale
Seen on: 23.10.2020

Plot:
Fred (Logan Lerman) and Rose (Odessa Young) were recently married and are excited to embark on a new step in their life: Fred got a dissertation spot with Stanley Hyman (Michael Stuhlbarg) and Rose could enrol at his university, too. Rose is also excited to meet Hyman’s wife, the famous writer Shirley Jackson (Elisabeth Moss). But things come very different than expected. Shirley is abrasive and the few days that Fred and Rose were invited to stay at their home until they get settled in their own turn longer and longer, with Rose picking up more and more of the domestic duties. Her presence seems to help Shirley focus on her work at least, and the two women become closer.

Shirley is a film made of ambivalences – ambivalent characters make very ambivalent choices in a blend of fact and fiction that is also pretty ambivalent. That makes it rather challenging, but I thought it was more than worth it.

The film poster showing Shirley Jackson (Elisabeth Moss) sitting at a desk in the middle of the woods.
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Madeline’s Madeline (2018)

Madeline’s Madeline
Director: Josephine Decker
Writer: Josephine Decker, Donna di Novelli
Cast: Helena Howard, Miranda July, Molly Parker, Okwui Okpokwasili, Julee Cerda, Sunita Mani, Felipe Bonilla, Lisa Tharps, Curtiss Cook, Reynaldo Piniella
Part of: FrauenFilmTage
Seen on: 5.3.2019
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Plot:
Madeline (Helena Howard) is part of an improv theater group, currently working on a production of Three Little Piggies under Evangeline’s (Molly Parker) direction. Madeline gets along very well with Evangeline and not so much with her own mother Regina (Miranda July). When she has a dream about hurting Regina, Madeline confides in Evangeline. Evangeline feels inspired by Madeline’s problems and starts using her life for the theater group, even roping in Regina.

Madeline’s Madeline was the only film I managed to see at the FrauenFilmTage this year, and then only a 9.30pm-on-a-weekday screening was possible for me. But I wanted to see the film so much, that I braved that screening anyway. And even though I regrettably fell asleep for some of it (not the film’s fault at all), I managed to see most of it and the parts I did see where absolutely fantastic.

The film poster showing Evangeline (Molly Parker), Madeline (Helena Howard) and Regina (Miranda July) poking their heads through a red curtain. Around them several (much smaller) people can be seen on stage clouds, floating around them.
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Uncle Kent (2011)

Uncle Kent
Director: Joe Swanberg
Writer: Kent Osborne, Joe Swanberg
Cast: Kent Osborne, Jennifer PredigerJosephine Decker, Joe Swanberg
Seen on: 16.9.2015

Plot:
Kent (Kent Osborne) is working on an animated film. His life is rather withdrawn. He gets occasional visits from his nephew Joe (Joe Swanberg) and otherwise spends a lot of time online. Direct personal encounters usually end rather awkwardly. Through ChatRoulette he meets Kate (Jennifer Prediger). Since she has to spend the weekend in the city, Kent offers that she can stay at his place. Kate accepts. Although she has a boyfriend, it becomes clear pretty quickly that Kent would like their meeting to become romantic.

Uncle Kent is a weird film, somewhere between fiction and reality. I probably would have never seen it, if the /slash Filmfestival hadn’t announced that they’d be showing the sequel. But I am glad I did.

Uncle_Kent

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