Celine and Julie

She Is Me

The “Persona Swap” Film

by Miriam Bale 

There is a genre of film, never properly examined, about the friendship between two people who swap personas. Though usually a story about two women, these films are differentiated in tone and logic from a buddy comedy such as Thelma and Louise The recognizable but almost ineffable tone of these films is one in which magical events are readily accepted with an ever present, hard-to-shake tinge of nightmarish doubt. “Is this real?” But this fantasy isn’t in opposition to reality; in the worlds of these films, there simply is no real. These films share not only the swapping, sometimes stealing, or often even merging, of personas, but suggest that femininity, in particular, is performance.  Film critic and programmer Miriam Bale calls this the “persona swap” film, and in this book will look at the history and major touchstones of the sub-genre, which include Mulholland Dr., 3 WomenSingle White FemaleCéline and Julie Go Boating, and of course Persona. These are films that are psychological, supernatural and, at their best, illuminate very specific aspects of relationships between women. 

Coming January 2016

Miriam Bale is an independent film programmer and writer based in New York. Her background in the arts includes an early career in the music business as a talent scout and live music promoter in London followed by work in museum education in California. After organizing film programs for the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, she then studied documentary film production and did an internship at Les Blank’s Flower Films in El Cerrito, California. Then after writing and researching for The San Francisco Silent Film Festival, Bale moved to New York in 2006 to continue writing about and programming films. She has written for the New York Times, New York Daily News, Film CommentCineasteFilmmakerThe LBomb, as well as film websites such as Moving Image Source and Indiewire. Her programming work has been frequently highlighted in the The New YorkerThe Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. A.O. Scott of The New York Times called her “Late Film” series at BAM “unusual, even radical in the way it brings together disparate materials.” The New Yorker’s Richard Brody described the same program as “one of the strongest, most original, and most influential New York repertory series in recent years.” She is currently editing a collection of criticism by Jonathan Baumbach as well as a forthcoming Filmmakers in Conversation book on Sofia Coppola for The University of Mississippi Press.