Losing Ground

Losing Ground ★★★★

Losing Ground is delightful in a lot of its specific qualities, but generally because it defies easy -- or even normal -- categorization. Part low-toned comedy, part cringe drama, part vibrant musical, part meta exploration of artistry, and part philosophical expo... Yet it all feels of a piece.

Amidst this array of content and aesthetics, what I found most compelling was witnessing a woman waking up to the besetting influences on her life, not in the form of conscious manipulation, but of regressive and jilted expectations. Sara's gender and skin color elicit surprise when she introduces herself as a philosophy professor, and merely being a wife to a husband comes along with a slow trickle of questioning and instructing that connote subservience. Towards the end of the film, even being told that others rely on her for her "dependability" becomes another expression of the malignant restrictiveness that Sara is now realizing is all around her.

Kathleen Collins' Losing Ground is, among many things, about stepping out of the abstractions others might use coercively -- the abstraction of "a success", of a woman and a wife, of Blackness, and essentially of all the ways others' ideas of those things exude undue influence -- and into an autonomous and physical life.

"What's the purpose of the scene?", a character asks Sara, in a definitely meta moment, earning an answer that constitutes a concrete articulation of this arc between abstraction and tangible autonomy:

"Something to do with the relationship between the characters, the space, the light," she answers, as she is acting out a role that she has chosen to take up.

Hmm.

Something to do with the relationship between the characters, the space, the light -- seems like a good "something" to chase after.

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