Brainwashed: Sex-Camera-Power Blu-ray Review: A Look at How Things Look

The male gaze in film has been problematic since the silent age. Sometimes directors (mostly male) unintentionally objectify women on screen; sometimes they do it on purpose to get a reaction. But whatever you think or whatever the reason behind this is, there does need to be a change, or least a brand new conversation. For better or worse, filmmaker Nina Menkes 2022 documentary Brainwashed: Sex-Camera-Power mostly does just that.

Through clips from such legendary films like Metropolis to Vertigo, After Hours to Bombshell, Blade Runner to Blade Runner 2049, and more, Menkes delves deep into the sexual politics of cinema shots, where even the most beloved of films can be instruments of sexual objectification, assault, and abuse. In addition to interviews with filmmakers such as Julie Dash, Penelope Spheeris, Charlyne Yi, Joey Soloway, Catherine Hardwicke, Eliza Hittman, Maria Giese, and Rosanna Arquette, the film also discusses the role of employment discrimination in understanding how women feel and how they are treated, especially in Hollywood.

Being a lifelong cinephile myself, I’m sure I’m not the only one of my kind who is going to feel two different ways after watching this: having sympathy for how women are undermined and not taken seriously in the film industry, and continuing to love films, even those that feature actresses in various stages of nudity and sexual situations, which can be sensual and sexy or horrifying and gratuitous, and not really thinking about it simply because it’s just the way that Hollywood operates.

So, thinking about what I’ve just mentioned, I don’t think this film is going to change anything very much, which is unfortunate, but I hope that it will at least give everyone, even us simple viewers something to think about and be more aware of.

Special features include audio commentary with Menkes and creative producer/editor Cecily Rhett; deleted scene: film editor Nancy Richardson reveals sexism within the editing world; isolated excerpts of the score by composer Sharon Farber; Q&A with Menkes, courtesy of DCTV; and theatrical trailer.

Brainwashed: Sex-Camera-Power will be released on January 24.


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