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Riddles of the Sphinx (1977)

| Drama | 1977 (UK)
In this avant-garde classic, protagonist Louise deals with a change in her lifestyle in which she must learn to negotiate domestic life and motherhood.


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Dinah Stabb ...
Merdelle Jordine ...
Riannon Tise ...
Clive Merrison ...
Marie Green ...
Paula Melbourne ...
Rope Act
Crisse Trigger ...
Mary Maddox ...
Voice Off (voice)
Laura Mulvey ...
Herself / Voice Off
Marion Dain
Rosalind Delmer
Mary Dickenson
Rosamund Howe
Carole James
Claire Johnston


In this avant-garde classic, protagonist Louise deals with a change in her lifestyle in which she must learn to negotiate domestic life and motherhood.

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Release Date:

1977 (UK)  »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Referenced in Sam & Max: The Devil's Playhouse (2010) See more »

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User Reviews

Riddles of the Sphinx
23 September 2010 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

As Laura Mulvey's lasting legacy has been her theorization of a feminist avant-garde that eschews visual pleasure, it's hardly surprising that her famous 1977 experiment Riddles of the Sphinx is a bit difficult to digest. I certainly had a hard time watching it. But even though the film consistently tried my attention and nerves, I cannot deny that it's a wholly original work. And the more I think about it, the more I respect it, and the more--this is a bit crazy--the more I think I might like to watch it again.

The most immediately intriguing stylistic component is the slow, rotating cinematography of the film's fourth chapter. By placing a camera in an environment and confining it to a mechanical 360 degree rotation, Mulvey and Wollen offer a deliberate point of view that maintains visual interest without conforming to any traditional understanding of the filmic "gaze." This technique is most effectively employed in a scene that takes place in moving traffic, to a distinctly Children of Menesque effect; its a compelling demonstration of the spectatorial pleasure to be derived from cinematic skill as opposed to voyeurism and scopophilia.

Elsewhere, Mulvey and Wollen continue to push the boundaries of how we engage with cinema--I can say truthfully that I was far more invested in seeing two water drops reach the end of a maze than I would have been in characters chasing MacGuffins. I can't promise that you'll enjoy Riddles of the Sphinx in any traditional sense, but I can wholeheartedly recommend it to any filmmakers or artists interested in exploring new forms of expression. -TK 9/23/10

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