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Riddles of the Sphinx

In 1975, Laura Mulvey published her best-known work, “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema,” which quickly became a foundational work of feminist film theory, introducing the concept of the “male gaze.” Shortly after, she and partner Peter Wollen began production on Riddles of the Sphinx in collaboration with Soft Machine’s Mike Ratledge, whose dripping synth score forms a beautiful backdrop to their visualized theories. Riddles follows Louise, a young mother, as she traverses life from her baby’s infancy to her husband’s departure, to finding a job (and thus, daycare), and so on. Mulvey and Wollen concoct a new way of seeing through the camera, using intimate 360-degree pans to depict enclosed domestic and public worlds. A radical film made in a time of unbounded diagnosis, signaling the subsequent birth of new forms. “There was perhaps a rather divided sense between feminists who felt female artists could come up with completely new imagery that would reflect women’s sensibility and a feminist aesthetic just by wanting to. And then there were those of us who felt that this was over-utopian and that it was only by working with words, images, stories, legends, aesthetics—all the things that kind of circulate in society—and shifting them into different kinds of constellations, reconfiguring them, that one could shape a women’s movement, so to speak.”—Laura Mulvey.

Genres: Experimental