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Film Femmes

Marie Dressler in Tillie's Punctured Romance.

We may remember this as the summer without sparklers and Black Cats, but that doesn't mean we can't indulge in a few cheap thrills. The Boulder Film Alliance is coming to the rescue with firecrackers of another kind, all wrapped up as a summer fling with some of cinema's darker heroines. Two Alliance members, CU-Boulder's International Film Series and the Chautauqua Silent Film Series, are each hosting a loose ménage of dog-day screenings under the banner of Vampires and Spitfires.

"We didn't necessarily want good female characters, just strong ones," notes IFS director Pablo Kjolseth. And in keeping with this mission, his twin series in July, called Femme Noir and Femmes With Fangs, takes that description right over the edge. The offerings range from the 1955 B-movie Kiss Me Deadly, a Mickey Spillane noir nuke of a Hammer yarn starring femme fatale Maxine Cooper as Velda Wakeman, to Trouble Every Day, a creepy, nearly silent and totally gross sex-obsession film by French director Clair Denis that had folks screaming bloody murder this year at Cannes.

Meanwhile, Ray Tuomey, who programs films for family audiences at Chautauqua, offers tamer variations on the theme, although some of the women you'll see flickering on the screen -- such as vampire Alma Bennett taking a bite out of Harry Langdon in Long Pants or Phyllis Haver as a gold digger in D.W. Griffith's Battle of the Sexes -- were no doubt considered shocking in their time. Rather than focus on such stereotypes as the "shrinking-violet wallflower or the victim tied to the train tracks," Tuomey sought out some of silent film's slyer ladies: the ones with evil pizzazz and smoky eyes.

Either way, these women are certain to add a little bite to your summer routine.


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