Streisand reconsidered

Having rewatched Funny Girl after many years, I am thinking about the entire oeuvre of Barbra Streisand. In many ways she was tragically before her time.

Films like Yentl, Prince of Tides and The Mirror has Two Faces are extraordinary. Had they been directed by a man, they would have been far more widely talked about, examined, analyzed and copied.

Instead, they were all received with a kind of cultural resentment. In the general critical discourse, there seemed to be a troubling undertone of “Who does she think she is anyway?”

Like Ida Lupino before her, Streisand has been an auteur female filmmaker in an American film industry that couldn’t conceive of such a thing. Until recently, a masterful writer / director / actor who happened to be female was simply ignored by the Academy.

In Europe things were different. A Vargas or Wertmüller was widely recognized as an original voice — ironically, even in the U.S. But America did not extend the same courtesy to its own.

Hopefully we will continue to evolve. Alas, some kinds of progress are woefully slow. And that is tragic, partly because brilliant young artists will be discouraged from enriching our lives, simply because of meaningless and destructive cultural preconceptions.

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