Menopause is not a familiar subject in American cinema, nor for that matter in any film culture I know of. Given its universality, inevitability and absolute humanity, this is rather odd, but sadly not surprising. The subject, associated with decay and failure rather than liberation, is downbeat to the point of taboo. But this is where Yvonne Rainer begins her film <i>Privilege</i>, an intellectually vigorous "instrument of discussion" that raises many questions, some of which have not been asked before. A privilege is a right or favor granted to a certain, defined group, and it may even accrue to women who have matured beyond feeling sexually attractive. The notion of coupling menopause with privilege is poetic, resonant, arguable, and perhaps brilliant.
Through free use of an unrestricted set of narrative strategies„ Rainer keeps interrupting her own stories: of a woman filmmaker's investigation into her friends' menopausal experiences and epiphanies, of an aborted rape, of a subsequent romance with a public prosecutor, and of neighborly relations with people of color. These asides become the gist of the film, and out of them arise the associations and queries that shake the viewer's stereotypes about gender, race and aging. Since these stereotypes are largely shaped by a society which, in turn, is determined to a great degree by its economic system, Rainer cannot help but preside as her personal interrogation assumes a national dimension. That she does this with irony and an acute psychological sense of self (which I find courageous) makes <i>Privilege</i>, in addition to a substantive work (which is enough), also a work of wit, drama and revelation. A modest film on an immodest subject, <i>Privilege</i> will change forever the way the viewer thinks about—if the viewer thinks at all—a most natural occurrence.
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