History Lessons

"Very Good"

History Lessons Review


History Lessons gives a unique glimpse into the background of lesbian relations -- by putting it through a historical lens. It effectively dispels any idea that being a lesbian is some kind of trend that emerged from Stonewall, as some of its footage dates back 50 years or more. And more than most films that deal with the subject of lesbianism, this film brightly takes into account the fact that there is more than one form of women sleeping with her own gender.

Some of the images are shockingly graphic, but they also force the viewer to accept how natural it is for women to enjoy one another. From displaying fully-clothed women frolicking during the war effort to showing oral sex acts, Barbara Hammer wisely chooses to look at the subject from every angle. It's not about empowering women or degrading them, but simply cataloging the wide variety of lesbians and their behaviors.

That's not to say that History doesn't have a general feeling of inner female power. In shot after shot we see women doing what they want and enjoying themselves. When they are hindered, it is by some laughably naïve, intruding character that has no real impact on their lives. So even when the world at large becomes a challenge, they find strength and enjoyment in one another. Just like heterosexual women, they endure and find a way to live life to the fullest.

Unfortunately, due to the nature of archival footage, sometimes the images have too much of a scrappy, thrown-together look. And when these old reels get repeated, the result is not as effective. Another difficulty, especially for a film with a documentary feel, is that there is no rhyme or reason to how or when scenes are placed together. There are no datelines provided, so we don't really understand if any progress has been made. It's impossible to guess why one scene follows another. Though just over an hour in length, stylings like this make the viewing experience feel longer. The basic premise of the film is ever-present, instead of building to any kind of climax.

Still, History is also an intelligent, satirical presentation of how misdirected the media is in defining lesbians. Often the music and sarcastic narration are more interesting than the pictures they are matched to. The altered historical voices provide enjoyable commentary instead of spouting some moralistic, heavy-hitting speech about injustice. It's a clear, unique voice that allows you to think for yourself, and even sometimes laugh in the face of sadness.



History Lessons

Facts and Figures

Run time: 65 mins

In Theaters: Wednesday 6th June 2007

Distributed by: First Run Features

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 20%
Fresh: 2 Rotten: 8

IMDB: 6.8 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Barbara Hammer

Producer: Barbara Hammer

Contactmusic


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