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Shirley: Visions of Reality2015

  • 3.6
Shirley is a woman in America in the 1930s, '40s, '50s and early '60s. A woman who would like to influence the course of history with her professional and socio-political involvement. A woman who does not accept the reality of the Depression years, WWII, the McCarthy era, race conflicts and civil rights campaigns as given but rather as generated and adjustable. A woman whose work as an actress has familiarised her with the staging of reality, the questioning and shaping of it; an actress who doesn't identify her purpose and future with that of solo success or stardom but who strives to give social potency to theatre as part of a collective. A woman who cannot identify with the traditional role model of a wife yet longs to have a life partner. A woman who does not compromise in moments of professional crisis and is not afraid to take on menial jobs to secure her livelihood. A woman who in a moment of private crisis decides to stick with her partner and puts her own professional interest on the back burner. A woman who is infuriated by political repression yet not driven to despair, and who has nothing but disdain for betrayal. Shirley, an attractive, charismatic, committed, emancipated woman.

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Member Reviews (4)

Fascinating more for its reconstruction of Edward Hopper's paintings than for the story created to connect them. Often, the movement of the actors seem to create new paintings within the frames, like a slow persistence of vision. Though virtually static, a riveting visually experience.

1 member likes this review
top reviewer

If you like and/or love Hooper, you'll enjoy this movie.

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top reviewer

This is a wonderful movie. It helps if you have obsessed at least a bit over Edward Hopper. (Think the diner of "Nighthawks" and realize that you actually have done so.) This movie takes the painter's 2 dimensional representation of 3 dimensional reality and reverses it. It's a 3 dimensional moving representation of Hopper's 2 dimensional unmoving painting. The overlap of the two is done cleverly and always surprisingly well. The actress moves from one frozen representation to the next, with her three dimensionality always surprising. The 13 scenes are separated by a black screen with the next date and a reproduction of Dos Passos' "newsreal" separations of chapters in his "USA" trilogy. These are also flattened and frozen, in comparison to their vibrancy and movement on the printed page.

The sets for each scene are striking in their flatness, and the eye concludes that many or most of the shadows and angles have been faked in paint. Then Shirley moves in or out of the flatness. Wow!

(A year or 2 later -- Reading about Hopper I discover the fact that he always used his wife as his model, with no exceptions. Knowing this gives a different bit of structure to the film, which isn't really need but gives you another dimension to think about. DE)

I like both Gustav Deutsch and Edward Hopper, so I was expecting to be entranced by the film. The visuals were impressive and interesting, but for me, couldn't carry the overwrought narrative. Nice idea which didn't click.