ISSUE DATE: Sept. 26, 1977
ALSO APPEARED: Oct. 6, 1996, with the cast of The First Wives Club
Remember Keaton in the Godfather movies? Not likely. She was invisible in The Godfather and pallid in The Godfather, Part II. She played Al Pacino’s wife, and her role amounted to telling Pacino every now and then to stop killing people so often and spend some time with the kids. Says Keaton: “Pacino was great. Robert De Niro was great. I was background music.”
That expresses well enough an oddity of the past two decades of moviemaking. Women, with a few notable exceptions, have been background music. The reason is not simply that Paul Newman and Robert Redford make a lovely pair, cuddly though they are. It is a matter of social realities and society’s perceptions. A male actor can fly a plane, fight a war, shoot a badman, pull off a sting, impersonate a big cheese in business or politics. Men are presumed to be interesting. A female can play a wife, play a whore, get pregnant, lose her baby, and, um, let’s see … Women are presumed to be dull.
Yes, and yes. Is it possible, however, that films are beginning to see women through a sharper lens? Or at any rate with a more interesting astigmatism? New women novelists have begun writing about women as creatures who can make noises in the forest, even if no man is there to hear, and whose sexuality, in particular, functions without any by-your-leave from old social presumptions. Now a determined trend spotter can point to a handful of new films whose makers think that women can bear the dramatic weight of a production alone, or virtually so.
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