It should come as no surprise at this point that history is full of innovative women whose achievements are overlooked and whose names are buried. sex investigator Shere HiteThe almost Stalinist removal from popular consciousness after writing an all-time bestseller on feminist self-actualization: 1976 “The Hite Report on Female Sexuality” – is the mystery behind documentary filmmaker Nicole Newnham’s evocative and moving work of unsolved case portraits, “The Disappearance of Shere Hite.”
Born in Missouri, Hite had been a graduate student in social history at Columbia, irritated by the school’s rejection of her interest in sexuality, when her activism in the burgeoning Second Wave feminist movement led her to initiate a project centered in women’s sexual experiences. By charting and analyzing thousands of open-ended questionnaires submitted anonymously by women of all stripes, she shocked an unsuspecting public by revealing in “The Hite Report” that women did not need men to achieve orgasm, ending years of distortions. Freudians on female sexual pleasure. . Books flew off the shelves and suddenly she Hite started talking about sexual quality and equality everywhere.
The fact that Hite, an academic and workaholic, was also an unknown idea of what a “serious” researcher looked or acted only added to her media appeal. A pale, elegant strawberry blonde, she had modeled to pay her tuition and continued to cultivate an elegant and glamorous air in private filming and public appearances. She enjoyed her aura of beauty, confidence and authority as she spoke about what was once taboo and advocated for healthier bonds between women and men. A talk show clip of her sitting between host Mike Douglas and a stuttering David Hasselhoff, with Hite calmly wielding a cigarette and talking about masturbation, is priceless.
However, that veneer began to crack in the reactionary ’80s, with a backlash to his follow-up studies on male sexuality and relationship discontent. His books still sold, but as television became gimmicky, his appearances became ambushes. Misogynistically branded as radical that she hates men, her questionnaire methodology was attacked (even if her ideas were not). Then, her first nudes were dug up and used against her. The censured and afflicted hite withdrew from sight. She renounced her American citizenship in 1995 and, until her death 25 years later, she lived in Europe, which she considered much friendlier.
Following his Oscar nomination “Crip Camp” Newnham shows once again how compelling his chronicle of the people behind anti-establishment movements is. Her big idea for reviving Hite is to treat her less as a subject being re-examined and instead as the fascinating star of a heroic rise-and-fall narrative. Aided by a wealth of footage from someone who loved the lens (except when Hite later felt threatened by sensationalist interviewers), Newnham uses panoramic framing to a wonderfully cinematic effect, as if it were a classic image of a newly discovered woman and faithfully restored, occasionally set to music. to the sensual Rachmaninoff concertos that Hite treasured.
It’s all peppered with original interviews with friends, colleagues, fans and ex-lovers, and accompanied by excerpts from Hite’s own writings, read by dakota johnson. Most important, too, is that we occasionally receive a chorus of voiceovers of the respondents’ own words, a display powerful enough for us to sense how rewarding this work must have been for Hite, like finding a long-lost map of the feelings, fears and hopes that unite us all.
What is most rewarding about Newnham’s research is how Hite regained her own positive sense of self in exile through some key female friendships: a goddess of love who finds refuge in like-minded souls after a tough battle with resentful mortals. and not illuminated. It is a journey marked by… what else? – A renewed relationship with the camera, only this time through a female gaze more eager to celebrate her photogenic blend of spirit, intelligence, sadness and beauty. And while “The Disappearance of Shere Hite” celebrates that too, it also powerfully reminds us that it is invariably what powerful women say and do, not what they look like, that is most at risk of being silenced.
‘The Disappearance of Shere Hite’
Rating: R, for sexual material, nudity/graphic nudity and some language
Duration: 1 hour, 56 minutes
Playing: AMC Burbank 16
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