Women in Film Festival headlines tribute to Helen Reddy

The Women in Film Festival begins on Friday, Oct. 16, with the Icelandic film “Snaeland,” and “Touch,” a Chinese-language film that is a romantic thriller. But on Saturday comes “I Am Woman,” a tribute to Helen Reddy, who died on Tuesday, Sept. 29, just a little over two weeks ago.

Reddy was an international pop music icon, whose 1972 song “I Am Woman” became the feminist anthem of the era. The singer is played by Tilda Cobham-Hervey, who, like the singer, is Australian, with a voice that compares favorably.

Directed by Unjoo Moon, this biopic begins with Reddy’s arrival in New York for an audition with a record company. It doesn’t pan out, and she struggles at the beginning, singing in bars. Once she meets Jeff Wald (Evan Peters), and he becomes her husband and manager, they move to Los Angeles, where Reddy wins a recording contract that includes “I Am Woman.” The movie portrays how that song became a hit, rising to the top of the Billboard chart, and launches her career. It also earns her a Grammy award.

Her friendship with journalist and fellow Australian Lillian Roxon (Danielle Macdonald) plays a significant role in the film. Roxon stands by Reddy during her difficult early period. Through its portrayal of her daughter Traci, the film depicts the importance of Reddy’s domestic life. While the film conveys Wald’s role as manager, he is later shown developing a cocaine addiction and eventually nearly bankrupting the star.

“I Am Woman” offers an appropriate eulogy for this celebrated singer and feminist. Reddy is well-represented by Cobham-Hervey, both in looks and her musical performance. It is a film not to be missed.

Directed by Sofia Coppola, “On the Rocks,” which premiered last week and plays Thursday, Oct. 15, returns on Saturday, Oct.17, as part of the festival. It was reviewed last week.

‘Snaeland’ and ‘Touch’

Friday’s films include “Snaeland” and “Touch,” two interesting and unusual entries. An Icelandic/German film set in Iceland, “Snaeland” makes good use of that country’s spectacular scenery. Snaeland is the Icelandic/Norse word for Snowland. The film narrates the tale of a German journalist, Frank Hass (Franz Bruckner), who heads to an Icelandic village known for its summer festival that includes heavy drinking and nudity.

Frank travels with a taxi driver named Oskar (Vikingur Kristjánsson) and meets Oskar’s wife, Melanie Clement (Emily Behr), when she emerges from a swim in the frigid Arctic waters. Frank immediately suspects Melanie of being Jeanine Renard, a nanny and murderer from France, apparently dead after driving her car off a cliff. In love with the father, she killed the family’s baby in hopes of making him leave his wife and marry Jeanine.

A clueless Oskar takes Frank to see Melanie, who is a beekeeper. As Frank explores whether she is in fact Jeanine, the two of them return to the beehives, and Melanie must decide whether to tell her story as Jeanine or have him tell his version of it. The question of a woman with a double identity keeps the viewer involved, waiting to see how this mystery will resolve.

Set in China, “Touch,” directed by Aleksandra Szczepanowska, is a romantic thriller about Fei Fei (Szczepanowska), a Caucasian woman, and Zhang Hua (Jun Yang), her elusive Chinese husband. The film opens with the couple being interviewed by a Chinese customs officer. A dancer, Fei Fei hopes to acquire permanent residency status. When she does not receive it, she goes to Bai Yu (Jiangwei Yuan), a masseur, who is blind. Their relationship precipitates into a passionate affair that Fei Fei cannot extricate herself from. As it becomes increasingly hard to tell the difference between her dreams and reality, the end unfolds in a suspenseful way. It’s a puzzling thriller that may not appeal to some viewers. The festival films will be available virtually until Friday, Oct. 23.

Information and tickets for the Women in Film Festival, online until Oct. 23, are available at mvfilmsociety.com.