The Man Who Envied Women
dir. Yvonne Rainer
Mon March 4, Tues March 5
Four Wall Cinema

When I was in college, I took a class on literary theory, which was extremely nerdy and by far my favorite class. My reason for telling you this is to explain that I like literary theory and, in particular, literary theory applied to feminism. I am aware that very few people like this kind of esoteric stuff, and am therefore pointing out right away that you will not like this film if you do not share my interest.

If you do, however, read on, because this is the film for you. It's called The Man Who Envied Women, directed by feminist artist Yvonne Rainer, and it's a loose narrative about a woman living in New York City in 1985. At about the same moment in her life, she leaves her husband and gets evicted from her loft due to gentrification. Those events are established right away in the film, and the remaining two hours are spent exploring the resulting issues, as well as current (at the time) political situations, in light of the work of theorists such as Roland Barthes, Jacques Derrida, Ludwig Wittgenstein, and Jacques Lacan.

The film spends a lot of time thinking about a problem that I have also experienced with literary theory; while it's interesting and accurate, it's very male-centric, and applying it to women is just that--applying something written by and about men to a woman's life. This is illuminated by the woman's husband, who is a professor and jerk. Even though he seems educated about women's equality, he ends up just furthering the injustice with fancy arguments about why he should be able to screw as many women as he wants.

As the film progresses, it draws a lot of parallels between the way women are positioned in society and American foreign policy. Both groups are seen as a threat by male governments, and therefore both should be controlled, and in some cases (such as in Guatemala at the time), killed.

Like I said, all of these ideas are interesting to me, and therefore, the film was also interesting. However, even though I feel like I brought a basic understanding of literary theory to the film, I still got bored and confused several times, and when that happens, it's just a bunch of French people yapping.