Sally Potter

Active - 1983 - 2020  |   Born - Jan 1, 1949   |   Genres - Drama, Comedy Drama

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Biography by Rebecca Flint Marx

One of cinema's more multifaceted personalities, director, writer, dancer, and performance artist Sally Potter is known for making innovative, personal films that center around the lives of unusual women. Born in 1949, Potter began making films as a teenager, and she also began dancing around the same time. She maintained parallel routes as a performer and director, training as a professional dancer and choreographer at the London School of Contemporary Dance in the 1970s and eventually founding her own dance company, the Limited Dance Company, with fellow performer Jack Lansly. During the same decade, Potter made a series of short dance films in both black and white and color, and she also became recognized as an award-winning theatre director and performance artist.

Potter's first film of significant international import was the 1979 short Thriller, a critical re-working of Puccini's La Boheme. The film was a cult hit on the international festival circuit, and it was followed four years later by Potter's feature directorial debut, Gold Diggers. Starring Julie Christie as a woman who journeys to the Yukon to explore her heritage, the film had a decidedly feminist slant that won over many viewers even as it alienated others. The director followed it with a short film and the television documentary series Tears, Laughter, Fears and Rage, as well as a 1988 film on women in the Soviet cinema entitled I Am an Ox, I Am a Horse, I Am a Man, I Am a Woman.

Potter had her highest-profile film to date with 1992's Orlando. Adapted from Virginia Woolf's novel about an Elizabethan nobleman who lives for four centuries and changes sex along the way, it starred Tilda Swinton as its eponymous adventurer. The film earned great international acclaim, garnering two Oscar nominations and winning over 25 international honors. Following Orlando, Potter was able to explore her twin passions for dance and filmmaking with The Tango Lesson (1997), an autobiographical film about her experiences learning tango that starred Potter as herself. Although it was not as widely praised as her previous film -- some critics labeled it shamelessly self-indulgent -- The Tango Lesson further cemented Potter's reputation for making films that defied easy categorization. In 2000, she again returned to the theme of a woman's personal journey with The Man Who Cried, a love story centering on a Russian Jewish woman (Christina Ricci) who flees WWII Germany for Paris, where she becomes involved in a romantic rectangle with Cate Blanchett, John Turturro, and Johnny Depp.

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