Bossy. Opinionated. Difficult.
These words curse women for doing their jobs – especially in Hollywood, where clear-eyed femme directors have been blacklisted for applying the same discipline and commitment that gets their male peers labelled ‘visionary auteurs’.
This November, Adelaide Cinematheque celebrates these so-called ‘Difficult Women’ with a season showcasing their tenacity, humour and artistic excellence. Curated by Aimee Knight – Mercury CX’s Emerging Hothouse resident in cinema programming and projection – the four-film strand runs from 1–10 November at the Mercury.
Yentl (1983) Dir. Barbra Streⅰsand
Monday 1 November, 7pm
Streisand’s directorial debut is a masterwork of mainstream feminist cinema. The multihyphenate shines as the titular difficult woman who, in turn-of-the-century Poland, adopts a male persona so that she may study Jewish theology. This leads to a love triangle that destabilises gender, sexuality, patriarchy, and the gaze.
Jennifer’s Body (2009) Dir. Karyn Kusama
Wednesday 3 November, 7pm
“Hell is a teenage girl.” So opens this oft-misunderstood film about the horror and romance of women’s friendship. Written by Juno’s Diablo Cody, the witty script flips the body monstrous on its head, while Megan Fox – backed by director Karyn Kusama (Destroyer) – gives a wink and a nod to the monotony of misogynist.
Just Another Girl on the I.R.T. (1992) Dir. Leslie Harris
Monday 8 November, 7pm
With her sharp mind and sharper tongue, Chantel (Ariyan A. Johnson) is 17 going on 30. She dreams of leaving Brooklyn, going to college, and graduating into middle-class security. Can Chantel really navigate a world that wasn’t built for her? The first and, to date, only feature directed by Leslie Harris remains feverishly relevant.
Ishtar (1987) Dir. Elaine May
Wednesday 10 November, 7pm
Starring Warren Beatty and Dustin Hoffman as palpably untalented lounge singers, this notorious flop sealed Elaine May’s fate as Hollywood’s #1 difficult woman. But as the writer, director and Taurus sun observed, “If all of the people who hate Ishtar had seen it, I would be a rich woman today.”
So, let’s reimagine the canon as we commend these four directors – and every woman whose career has been hindered by whispers, but whose work endures regardless.