Back In Berkeley, a big series claims the big screen for Women Crime Writers

Summer movie season is upon us!—and if you happen to live in the California Bay Area, an exciting alternative to standard blockbuster fare now is now screening at a theater near you.

Library of America’s two-volume anthology Women Crime Writers: Eight Suspense Novels of the 1940s & 50s is the basis for Band of Outsiders: Women Crime Writers, a nearly summer–long retrospective at the Berkeley Art Museum Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA). Beginning this week and running through August 17, the series presents fifteen movies adapted from works by authors in the Women Crime Writers anthology, from acknowledged classics like Strangers on a Train and Laura to comparatively lesser–known fare like Bedelia and The Fool Killer.

Coming nearly two years after Library of America published the Women Crime Writers anthology, the BAMPFA retrospective is a gratifying illustration of how the collection, edited by Sarah Weinman, continues to resonate through the culture. (The New York City repertory cinema Film Forum ran a one–week series inspired by Women Crime Writers in December 2015.)

The Berkeley series arrives at a time when women’s status in the film industry is being discussed as perhaps never before. As though tacitly acknowledging this contemporary context, BAMPFA Film Curator Kathy Geritz notes that all the films in the series were directed by men, but encourages viewers to “watch for the women’s touch: the focus on the home, often fraught with anxiety, exposing women—and sometimes children—to peril; the complexity of women characters whose lives are caught between their desires and society’s expectations or who actively seek liberation from restrictive mores; and the relish with which ordinary men’s dark impulses are unmasked.”

Visit bampfa.org for complete details on the series. And if you want to learn more about some of the very best movies in BAMPFA’s retrospective (and the novels they’re based on), Library of America’s web feature The Moviegoer has recently given several of them in–depth critical reconsiderations. Start your browsing now:

Wendy Lesser on Purple Noon (screens July 1)
Megan Abbott on Laura (screens July 21)
Carrie Rickey on In a Lonely Place (screens August 11)
David Ehrenstein on Band of Outsiders (screens August 17)

The Library of America’s companion website for Women Crime Writers offers detailed information on the eight novels and their authors, along with appreciations by contemporary writers and a wealth of contextual material.

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