Steven Capsuto | 02/23/2004
(1 out of 5 stars)
"I picked this one up because one of the reviews on the back cover compared this to The Atomic Cafe. Wrong! Atomic Cafe used historical film clips in order to study a sociological phenomenon (the public panic surrounding the atomic bomb and the US governments attempt to deal with this problem through deliberate and extremely misleading propaganda). In contrast, History Lessons takes film clips which have nothing to do with a sociological phenomenon (society's reaction to lesbians) and completely alters them, sometimes by inserting unconnected images or outright altering the audio with voiceovers, to create an alternate history. In this alternate history, Eleanor Roosevelt publically declares herself to be a lesbian and becomes leader of a movement seeking to end discrimination against lesbians. Altered film clips, e.g., show that every woman in the military is a lesbian, and a educational film about highschool politics and elections is altered to become an educational film about young girls coming out of the closet. In other words History Lessons is a complete work of science fiction and has absolutely no value as a document of history and shouldn't be marketed as such.Perhaps there is some audience for this thing (perhaps young lesbians), but I did not find it the least bit humourous. Instead I found it to be a highly pretentious, unsatirical, mess that completely fails to make any point at all, and I also found its overreliance upon corny visual effects distracting."
What's the point?
Steven Capsuto | Philadelphia, PA United States | 02/20/2004
(2 out of 5 stars)
""History Lessons" is primarily a montage of archival footage that has little or no discernible connection to gay women, optically reprocessed and edited to vaguely imply lesbianism. The endless repetitions of the same lab-aged and otherwise altered footage make this downright tedious at spots. Lots of spots.
I first saw "History Lessons" at a film festival, accompanied by a talk by director Barbara Hammer. She is a very good speaker and obviously a creative, witty, intelligent person. I like some of her other films, but this one is too rambling and far too long for what it is.
Recently, I rewatched bits of the film on DVD. Although the director's ironic, wink-and-nudge approach to some of the footage is clearer on second viewing, I just don't see the point behind this film which is clearly the result of a very time-consuming editing process."