The Book Of Gabrielle is a cerebral and tender exploration of sexuality, sex and art and the complexities of desire. The film follows Gabrielle Young (Lisa Gornick) as she begins to explore her desires while producing a graphic novel ‘How To Do It’ which features her own illustrations based upon her own sexual history, childhood and past partners. She forms a relationship with established erotic writer Saul (Alan Corduner) that veers from platonic mentorship to flirtation while her own relationship with girlfriend Olivia (Anna Koval) begins to deteriorate.
As progress on her book develops she begins asking herself more and more questions about sex and sexuality and we see a symbiotic relationship form between artist and art as they begin to mutually inform one another. Her relationship with Saul serves a similar function, as he guides her to interrogate her own desire albeit from a more conventional straight male perspective. There is an underlying sexual tension between these two characters and there personal motivations. A recurring and not so subtle desire to smoke cigars together is proposed twice but never acted upon and seemingly enforces Gabrielle’s belief that she possesses an ‘inner penis’ while playing with gender roles.
For a film that is focuses so heavily on sex there is almost no onscreen depiction whatsoever. Instead Gabrielle’s illustrations occupy this space offering intimate, playful and slightly abstract depictions that enforce Gabrielle’s own feelings towards sex. This parallel identifies the vulnerabilities and exposure inherent both in creating works of art and in sex and falling in love. There is a charm and humor to the illustrations that is reflected in the movie itself and while it deals with heavy themes the film never feels weighted down.
The film’s representation of female desire and sexual autonomy is refreshing and bold and celebrates sex and sexuality in a universal way that feels unencumbered by rigid notions of gender and sexual identity.
We spoke to The Book Of Gabrielle director, Lisa Gornick, to find out more about her vision.
What made you decide to present The Book Of Gabrielle as a multi-media project as opposed to simply a film?
At the core of the film is the idea of drawing and sex I suppose, and I thought I’d like to try and expand what just a film on the screen is. I also like to do draw, perform, film make and wanted to see if I could combine them all. It was an attempt to expand how we see cinema too. To take it beyond just the screen.
You wrote, directed and starred in The Book Of Gabrielle, do you find that it is difficult to create such an intimate film without it becoming personal or even autobiographical?
I think the thoughts behind the film are probably more self portraits of myself rather than truly autobiographical. At the time of making the film, I didn’t think it was necessarily me anymore…even when I watch the film I feel a bit distant from the character of Gabrielle. But not always, sometimes it’s too close.
Your film presents Gabrielle as an autonomous and sexually open character, do you feel that representations of female desire in cinema are changing/ improving? Or are there still barriers to such depictions?
I think things are changing which is great. There are still huge barriers that even though there are more women filmmakers out there, it’s still a pretty much male gaze dominated business. People get used to watching this and making it.
The film concludes in a masturbatory celebration as the novel is published. Do you feel as though there are parallels between the exploration of sex and the creative process?
I do, but not everyone does. And also, I don’t think that’s the way always. I’d like to make something completely unsexual about creativity. But yes, in this film, I think I was seeing some connection between the line of the pen in the drawings and a sexual flow. As you say the connection of sex and the creative process.