Sunday, August 30, 2009


The beginning

The mention of a private archive containing 35 mm footage in Mr. Ghirtoiu’s obituary, recently published in a local newspaper, has revealed the roots of a yet unknown women’s movement involved in producing independent films in Romania during the 40’s.

The two initiators, Mona and Lisa Stanescu, were also playing the lead roles of these lost films, which stylistically mimic Hollywood classic melodrama and film noir. However, the backdrop seems to be real, diverting the artificial studio system of the American model through a keen touch of documentary. A collection of film stills exclusively featuring the two women has been preserved, but couldn’t be exactly dated due to lack of information. Or so it seemed at that point in time.

Current situation

Subsequent research has shed some light on the unfolding of this story: it appears that a certain Mr. Ghirtoiu has only accidentally come into possession of the archive by moving into a nationalized house in the early 50’s[1], where one of the films had actually been shot. This Mr. Ghirtoiu was at the time working at the Bureau for the Destruction of Forbidden Films, in a small department in charge of removing censored sequences. Still, the facts should be understood as intended. Ideologically faithful to his job, he nevertheless cut off the fragments in which the two appeared and carefully stored them, destroying the rest according to his beliefs.

Some say Mona and Lisa Stanescu were actually playing the masquerade of femininity. What if they were even aware of Joan Rivière’s 1929 essay Womanliness as a Masquerade? Before the question was answered, the ones concerned have already spotted the irony behind the story: it is exactly the masculine gaze[2] they were mocking that saved the films from forever sinking into oblivion. Moreover, The Manifesto of the Melodramatic Woman, a document of utmost importance, was found among other notes and personal objects, which we forgot to mention above.

Further developments

A Bureau of Melodramatic Research has been established to investigate these independent productions which have been melodramatically recuperated. The Bureau will invite experts from various fields to discuss whether such material is worth reviving, the ambiguous historical placement and political position of the movement and possible ways of manipulating its significance in the present.

Key elements in the research are the rise of the melodramatic woman and the constant peril of her emotional-octopus tactics that could gradually exhaust the powers of the patriarchal structures and undermine high/cold/masculine culture. Will this be the end?

Another matter of speculation will be the presumably inverted critique practiced by Mona and Lisa Stanescu, echoing psychoanalytic and feminist writings of the previous decades[3], as well as its infiltrations in today’s social consciousness.

The Bureau will conduct critical analysis both by pursuing its melodramatic methodology defined as melocritique and by detecting melodramatized versions of personal/collective history in the media.

If you feel you can be of any help, please do not hesitate to contact us.

[1] In 1948 the entire private property in Romania was nationalized.

[2] The very concept of male gaze would be later theorized by Laura Mulvey in Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema (1975)

[3] Besides the alleged connection to Joan Rivière’s Womanliness as a masquerade (1929), the directors acknowledge their influence from Claude Cahun’s writings, notably Les Héroïnes (1925)