a little liberating?
The movie is supposed to be about a "girl" who rebels and takes to the road. It is quite amazing that she actually does that. She is a woman who takes a lover, does drugs and has the freedom, of some kind, to travel around. Yet the movie is about as liberating, and positive, for women as most movies are today; which is to say not very. The movie, though having some positive moments, mostly uses the female as a object to stare at, from the moment the movie begins and throughout everything she does. Though there are moments of female gaze, where the spectator views the world through the protaganists eyes, the spectator is quickly taken away from that view, back to a male gaze, by consistent photographic and narrative elements that place the protagonist as an object to gaze at.
The beginning sequence shows the female protagonist looking on as two men compete. Then the ringmaster, Daniel, whips her around the circus. This imagery places the protagonist as a person under the command of someone else. From this point forward, sexual and phallic imagery abound. The acts of putting clothes on, filling up a gas tank and lying in the grass are all sexualized, by showing off the woman's body or by highlighting phallic imagery. The woman spends most of the movie on her motorcycle, which can be seen as empowering. But in a later part of the narrative, the motorcycle is highlighted, also, for its "phallusness." The woman's scenes on the motorcycle then change, from a cinematographic stance, by focusing on her thighs surrounding the bike, and having her "ride" it.
Any freedom she might have is undermined, through the narrative and filming. A few female backround characters are shown, but throughout most of the people that we encounter are male; and all of them look at her sexually, or even try to touch her sexually, like the border patrolmen. One positive, or liberating aspect is that the woman never seems to be critcized for her affair or her use of drugs. An aspect of this is that Raymond is portrayed as a weak man, while Daniel is powerful and beautiful, and the protagonist is drawn to the later. But this is not really criticized for much of the film. But in the later parts, the woman herself begins to criticize herself; calling herself a bitch multiple times. The movie ends, as most do, with her death. This ending can be read in many ways, as a halting of her freedom, a punishment for her infidelity, or many other ways.
Though this movie is seemingly centered on a female, many problems still arise from it. There is clearly a male gaze at work, seeing her strictly as a sexual object. The spectator is reminded of this throughout the film. But if we are to look for positives, the movie does place a woman as the lead narrator. We get to hear her voice throughout, we get to see her throughout, even in moments that are not sexualized, and we get to follow her story. This was probably a little step towards female empowerment, but nowhere near enough.