Every weekday during March, Women's History Month, we'll be writing about a great film directed by a woman. Although our list won't be comprehensive, we hope to shed some light on work that often gets overlooked by mainstream audiences and awards.

ASPARAGUS
USA, 1979, 20 min, Dir. Suzan Pitt

A tiny chair made from tinier asparaguses, from Pitts famous short film, Asparagus.
A tiny chair made from tinier asparaguses, from Pitt's famous short film, Asparagus. COURTESY CRITERION CHANNEL + SUZAN PITT

My current obsession is legendary animator Suzan Pitt, who passed away last year. Unfortunately, there aren't many ways to watch Pitt's short masterpieces. It's a shame. Pitt's collection of animated short films are celestial, sensual fever dreams that sometimes took her and her collaborators four to five years to complete. Why so long? According to Pitt, every single second in her films required 12 different paintings. Each of them is good enough to be exhibited on its own.

Many viewers were originally introduced to Pitt's work alongside David Lynch's Eraserhead. Asparagus screened with it on the midnight movie circuit for two years. Here's what Haden Guest had to say about how Pitt was different from Lynch, for Criterion:

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In stark contrast to the oozing, shameful, queasy sexuality in Eraserhead, Pitt’s boldly frank and almost joyous display of the woman’s body leads to a climax in which the woman opens her Pandora’s carpetbag to release a strange flock of winged creatures and effulgent objects, letting loose her imagination in a gesture that lyrically affirms the artist’s generous, giving role. The final, now-iconic image of the woman fellating the asparagus goes further still by perversely and playfully offering her assertive act as transformative and creative, with the vegetable stalk turning into a cascading waterfall, an asphalt ribbon, a passage into another realm.

A woman fellating asparagus? It's a funny, bizarre sequence, and while I'm not sure this is what Pitt was referencing, Stranger writer Rich Smith told me that "an old girlfriend" of his said "getting on your hands and knees and biting the tip off the first crop of spring asparagus is an old Michigan tradition." Apparently she and her mom would do it every spring. "I guess it’s supposed to ensure a good crop," Rich said. The more you know!

Available on Criterion Channel and at Scarecrow Video.

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