Monday, November 14, 2005

Mothers on the edge of a nervous breakdown

This weekend my wife and I went to the Northampton Independent Film Festival, an annual event that features small productions, shorts, and documentaries. It used to be a larger event with some major productions as well as popular performances by the Alloy Orchestra. Unfortunately, it has contracted each year. Still, the festival makes a fun weekend.

In the Land of Milk and Money stood out among this year's films. Written and directed by Susan Emshwiller (daughter of sci-fi novelist Carol Emshwiller), it takes a comic look at how a consumer society treats the emotions of women. A dairy company, experimenting with cow genetics, develops milk products that makes mothers kill their own children. The company, admitting nothing, promises to develop a cure for the disease MOODS. In the meanwhile, the mothers are put into concentration camps (filmed at Manzanar.) Men and women fear and reject motherhood (as reproduction and a form of socio-economic activity.) Men become independent of spouses, but are forced to look to the market for services that women provided for free. Click to read full post

The film is 100% camp. The effects are cheap, and there is no pretension to scientific accuracy. The endangered mothers are stock characters from the 1950s, with their hair in buns, aprons around their waists, and rolling pins in their hands. Their attempts at infanticide reflect the '50's material world: poisoned mayonnaise, blenders, cast-iron skillets. They are sympathetic characters, even if they are trapped somewhere between tradition and science. In fact, one of the most effective things about the film is why such traditional types are either rejected or confined.


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