Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Barbra Streisand Film Maker

Barbra Streisand - Post #5 -


Recently honored with Glamour's Woman of the Year Lifetime Achievement Award,  Barbra Streisand is a multi-talent phenomenon.  She is a singer and songwriter, author, actress, film producer, writer and director.  Celebrated for her singing and acting achievements, her career spans over four decades.  This world acclaimed entertainer  has made her mark in the industry  by winning Grammys, Oscars, Tonys, Emmys and Golden Globe awards.  She has sold 70 million albums and has been the star of many iconic films such as "Hello Dolly," "Funny Girl,"  and "The Way We Were."  With “Yentl” (1983,”) her first film as a director, she became the first woman ever to produce, direct, write and star in a major motion picture. “Yentl,” won five Oscar nominations and  Golden Globes for both Best Director and Best Picture.  She is also the first female composer to ever win an Academy Award for her song "Evergreen."

 Although Streisand is an accomplished film maker, the media has neglected to illuminate her magnanimous talent as a film director and producer.   She  also directed the Academy Award nominated "The Prince of Tides," for best picture  and "The Mirror Has Two Faces."  It is rumored that she is currently working on a film which should be up for release very soon.  She is also a woman which has a special sensitivity when choosing films which merit involving herself with.  She  is careful when portraying women's issues on screen and is a creative and resourceful director and producer. 

In "Yentl" we find most of the issues women face when dealing with our global patriarchal society.  This empowering story is based on a play written by Leah Napolin and Isaac Bashevis Singer which is also based on Singer's short story "Yentl the Yeshiva Boy."   It centers around a woman's determination to get an education at any cost.  Yentl's father has been secretly teaching her daughter in the Talmud.  After his death she defies society and the roles imposed on women by deciding to attend a Yeshiva, or University, at all cost.  Yentl has to assume the persona of a man and cross-dress in order to receive a Talmudic Law education;  as she is a Jewish girl from Poland.  She takes on the name of "Anshel" and soon after leaving her home she encounters Avigdor a boy who is also entering a Yeshiva and falls in love with him.   Avigdor has a girl friend named Hadass which in turn develops feelings for "Anshel".  Hadass and Anshel marry and Yentl is faced with the troubles of being a woman having to play the role of a husband.  Avigdor ignores that Anshel is a woman but feels attracted to him/her while Yentl in the movie demonstrates to have a certain attraction to Hadass.  When the truth is finally revealed Yentl confessed to Avigdor that she is a woman dressed as a man.  Avigdor remains with Hadass and Yentl embarks to America to start a new life.  The story uses humor to get the point across; "women do not have the same privileges that men have."
Critics and fans of this film view Yentl as a true feminist role model.  The fact that she defies the religious Orthodox society in which she is brought up by assuming another gender has granted the film a place in the pages of feminism.

In Author/Auteur we read about Josephine Donovan's  "Gynocriticism" a term she takes from the works of Elaine Showalter.   Gynocriticism is a way of assessing works of art specifically in relation to the interests and desires of women.  As Donovan points out it involves a separate female way of thinking, and a recognition that women's experience has been effectively silenced by a masculine culture."(95)  Through this movie Streisand not only brings to the table a "separate female way of thinking" but also denounced the unfair rendering of privileges given to males due to their gender.
Even Isaac Bashevi Singer made an unfair criticism of the adaption of his short story when he declared "I did not find artistic merit neither in the adaptation, nor in the directing."  This was a tremendous blow to a woman who had for many years endured endless vicissitudes to finally make the project possible.  Singer's comment were not well received as many applauded Streisand's heroism in bringing to film an unusual and controversial subject.  Newsweek's Jack Kroll referring to Streisand's management of aesthetics of the film said that it was "a delight and at times an astonishment."  On the other hand Janet Maslin of the News York Times accused Streisand of being careless with some of the aesthetics and specifically the ending where she criticized  the film for having a particular "harsh ending."  To the criticism Streisand replied "I spent more than ten years researching the material; how long did she spend on it?"
In preparation for the film Yentl Streisand not only researched the material but also faced  opposition as many thought she was too old to play Yentl.  She was also considered not a likely candidate to pass as a man.  Her boyfriend Jon Peters tried to persuade Streisand to forget the project and disguising herself as a man Peters thought that someone had broken into the house.  After she signed a contract with Orion Pictures there were many issues regarding the cost of the production and as the budget went over the limit Streisand paid the remaining costs with her own salary.  Once the project was given the green light she worked with a Rabbi, studied Judaism, the Torah, the ceremonies and finally appointed Rabbi Lapin to be the consultant for the film. 

The movie Yentl is a lesson we can all learn from.  As women we need to take risks as Yentl Mendel did in the movie.  We also need to dare to do those things that have not been done before; like Barbara Streisand when she decided to pursue this project.  I hope that at least some of my classmates explore the genius of Yentl and that in some way your life is enriched by the message this film brings to all genders.


Newsweek, Jack Kroll, 1983

The New York Times 1983 Review, Janet Maslin ‎Yentl - Trailer - Cast - Showtimes -
Movie Review - Yentl - FILM: 'YENTL,' A DRAMA WITH DRAMA ...

Author/Auteur: Feminist Literary Theory and Feminist Film  trailer  movie clip



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