Seven Women, Seven Sins (1986)


Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB

////USA, 1986. . Screenplay by Chantal Akerman, Maxi Cohen, Valie Export, Laurence Gavron, Bette Gordon, Ulrike Ottinger, Helke Sander. Cinematography by Ulrike Ottinger. Produced by Maxi Cohen, , . Costume Design by .

This omnibus project is a combination of seven short films that each take up the theme of one of the Seven Deadly Sins, all of them directed by female filmmakers who push themselves to apply their assigned topic to a contemporary perspective.

Helke Sander’s Gluttony begins in the Garden of Eden where primitive, hairy early humans indulge themselves of the forbidden fruit and receive their celestial punishment, which Adam blames on Eve’s treachery. When we catch up with a modern couple in their leather jackets atop a motorcycle, we find that the dynamic of indulgent male and nurturing female hasn’t changed much.

In Bette Gordon’s Greed, a hotel maid plays the lottery, convinced that this will be her winning ticket to save her and mother from their economic oppression, but when she gets to work and has to deal with the clientele in the ladies’ room, her fate takes a different turn.

Maxi Cohen’s Anger is one of the most powerful of the bunch, a documentary in which she asks an assortment of New Yorkers to tell her the source of their, which includes homophobic skinheads, a rape victim who talks about surviving the human jungle that is the Big Apple, a woman born intersexed who breaks down in tears over the cruelty she has been treated to since confirming her identity, a drug addict who unabashedly talks about the murders he has committed, and a very memorable couple who have broken up but for economic reasons are forced to stay living together in agonizing mutual hatred.

Sloth by Chantal Akerman makes a nice change of pace after such an intense previous chapter, a sweet and lovingly photographed autoportrait in which the director shows herself lazily putting off the start of her day.

Valie Export’s Lust is the weakest of the bunch, a cheaply assembled satire on sex, politics and commerce that points out the commodification of carnality through a deeply unsubtle mockumentary about a sex worker and a bodybuilder who has turned his body in ad space.

Laurence Gavron’s Envy is the film’s most ornate entry, though among its least poignant, about the nephew of a famous opera conductor who longs to take over his uncle’s position but, when he does, finds it’s more than he can handle.

Finishing us off with her usual indulgent but oblique pageantry, Ulrike Ottinger’s Pride features “Superbia”, a woman who says she is the first and most important of all the sins (which, in a intentional bit of irony, has been left to last), with among the richly dressed cast who put on a dazzling if incomprehensible show.

The ratio of good to bad is certainly better than the 1962 collection made on the same theme, with Gordon’s and Cohen’s the two that could easily be screened quite powerfully on their own. If the whole experience isn’t fully rewarding, it can at least be said that the filmmakers put enough of their own bent on the subjects to make you forget that the conceit has been at the centre of so many projects before it.

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