LOVER OTHER (Barbara Hammer) Rating: NNNN
DYKETACTICS(Barbara Hammer) Rating: NN Rating: NNNNN
Hidden Histories, a selection of films by Barbara Hammer, includes two programs of shorts from the 70s and 80s and three recent documentaries, Resisting Paradise (2003), about French artists and refugees during the Second World War, My Babushka: Searching Ukrainian Identities (2001) and Lover Other, her 2006 film recounting the story of two fascinating French lesbian artists.
Lucy Schwob, who took the name Claude Cahun, and Suzanne Malherbe, who called herself Marcel Moore, became stepsisters and lovers when Schwob's father married Malherbe's mother. Part of the Parisian Surrealist movement, the eccentric pair fled to the Isle of Jersey during WWII and continued making photographs, collages and writing.
Prefiguring the self-presentation of Cindy Sherman, they photographed themselves (the fierce-looking Cahun is usually the subject) wearing masks and costumes in erotically charged poses. The work's lesbian content would have made exhibiting it impossible at the time.
When the Germans occupied the island, the two, who were part Jewish, bravely distributed leaflets sharing info from forbidden radio broadcasts and exhorting German soldiers to rebel. The Nazis, who saw them as the ultimate degenerate Jews, threw them in jail and sentenced them to death, but the liberation freed them.
Interviews with fellow inmates and Jersey residents show the locals' fondness for the strange women, and two actors dramatize their writings. Cahun and Moore's own work is so vivid that Hammer wisely keeps her own voice out of the story.
For those who missed out on, or are nostalgic for, the hippie lesbian days of the 70s before The L Word and bikini waxing, DykeTactics takes you there. Home-movie-style footage captures young white women as they run naked in the woods, play with menstrual blood, cavort around San Francisco in Superdyke T-shirts and engage in other fun/spiritual activities.
Hand-colouring tastefully distorts a sequence in which fingers massage a clit to orgasm and the artist's agile, naked lover swings on a trapeze as a voice-over talks about their relationship. I personally would rather forget the 70s, but some may find these films' naivet charming.
(Lover Other , June 8, 10, 12 and 14; DykeTactics, June 9 and 11, at the Brunswick).