Masculinity/Femininity (DIR. Russell Sheaffer)
By: Addison Wylie
It’s so limited, but it interrupts the whole filmmaking process. It’s not a steady stream of consciousness as much as some of the performers would like it to be. It kind of breaks it up.
That’s a quote from someone describing super 8 film in Masculinity/Femininity. A format of film so cumbersome, it would take an ambitious individual to want to shoot on it to make a modern movie. Russell Sheaffer is that resourceful filmmaker who believes he’s up for the task.
The concept of Masculinity/Femininity has Sheaffer and his crew asking multiple filmmakers and academics to draw personal societal experiences of what defines genders. Subjects are captured on a super 8 camera (which – if their lucky – will record 2-and-a-half minutes of footage per cartridge) while another camera shoots their uncut readings. Sheaffer – who also takes on the role of editing – intercuts these angles with each other. This adds a certain artistic flow to an otherwise dry project, except those black frames representing a super 8 cartridge change, well, they interrupt the steady stream.
Under the maddening antique style, Masculinity/Femininity has potential to work, I suppose. A lot of the opinions and monologues expressed are impassioned and educated, but they never get over how endless and longwinded they sound.
Masculinity/Femininity is overwrought by a mandate that pushes itself too far away from audience connectivity. Any of the honesty given by the interviewees is often blocked by a filmmaker who can’t stay attached to the subject matter because he’s too comfy within his own derrière.
If Sheaffer wasn’t so distracted with how impressed he is by his own hutzpah, he maybe could’ve found a way for his scrappy film to work while staying true to its experimental manifesto.
Catch Masculinity/Femininity at Toronto’s Inside Out LGBT Film Festival on:
Monday, May 26 at 5:30 p.m. @ TIFF Bell Lightbox
Click here for more details and to buy tickets.