Still from The Drowning by Bette Gordon

Criterion Channel Devotes Program to Films ‘Directed by Bette Gordon’ for Streaming

BY Felix van Kann, June 17, 2020

Professor of Professional Practice Bette Gordon will be the focus of Directed by Bette Gordon, a special streaming program on the Criterion Channel highlighting Gordon’s influential role in the independent cinema community on June 17. Gordon will also provide a special introduction to the slate which includes her feature films Variety and Luminous Motion as well as five of her early short films from 1973 to 1981 (Michigan Avenue, I-94, The United States of America, Empty Suitcases and Anybody’s Woman).


“For a filmmaker, being on the Criterion Channel is almost like being selected for the Cannes Film Festival — a recognition that your work will be showcased in a context that celebrates the greatest films of the last 130 years of world cinema,” Gordon said in a comment about the program. “Criterion is a carefully curated library featuring treasures from classic Hollywood and International cinema, including every genre you can imagine, from directors as varied as Agnes Varda, Ousmane Sembene, David Lynch, Pawel Pawlikowski, Wong Kar Wai, Spike Lee and Chantal Ackerman. It is a treasure chest with films from Sweden to Senegal, from every decade since the birth of cinema. To have my work join this distinguished company, and to know it will be seen by new streaming audiences, is not only enormously exciting, but also very gratifying as well.”

The Criterion Channel describes Gordon as, “Emerging from the avant-garde underground of the 1970s and ’80s, Bette Gordon made her mark with stylishly subversive investigations of sexuality and gender roles that invert genre expectations with their feminist themes. Following a string of groundbreaking experimental shorts, Gordon made her narrative feature debut with Variety, a noir-tinged study of voyeurism, pornography, and fantasy that turns the conventional male gaze back on itself. Fifteen years later, Gordon followed it up with Luminous Motion, a similarly provocative, dreamlike thriller.”


A pioneer in American Independent Cinema, Bette Gordon is known for her bold explorations of themes related to sexuality, violence and power. Her film Variety premiered at the Cannes Film Festival, where it was referred to as a "Feminist Vertigo - a daring departure into the dark, obsessional world of female fantasy." Her subsequent films have screened theatrically in the US and abroad, as well as in all the major film festivals, including Berlin, Toronto, Locarno, Tribeca, London, Sao Paulo, Lisbon, and Warsaw. In addition, her work is featured in the permanent collections of the Whitney Museum, The Centre Georges Pompidou, MoMA and Anthology Film Archives. Gordon's most recent film, The Drowning, a psychological thriller based on the novel Border Crossing by Booker Prize winning British author Pat Barker, stars Josh Charles, Julia Stiles and Avan Jogia. It was released theatrically at the IFC Cinema, in 2017. David Edelstein from New York Magazine refers to the film as "superbly evocative filmmaking and Glenn Kenny from the New York Times calls the film "Intriguing!! A genuinely unsettling vision!" Gordon's film Handsome Harry premiered in competition at the Tribeca Film Festival (2009) and opened theatrically at IFC to rave reviews, "deeply moving with top notch performances and astute direction." Her early short films, most notably Empty Suitcases, won numerous awards and festival acclaim worldwide, including screenings at New York’s Museum of Modern Art and The Whitney Biennial, as well as prizes such as The Chicago International Film Festival and Atlanta Festival of Film and Video. Gordon has been the subject of recent retrospectives, including in Sao Paulo at the Int'l Film Festival, at The Barbican Art Center in London, in New York at the IFC Cinema and at Anthology Film Archives and in Minneapolis at The Walker Arts Center. Gordon has a BA, MA, and MFA from The University of Wisconsin-Madison.


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Still from Luminous Motion by Bette Gordon