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since 1997 | by maryann johanson

no more sitting down and shutting up for women in Hollywood?

Remember how it was in school, when all the loud, rowdy boys got all the attention of the class… and the teacher? That dynamic extends ways beyound school. Melissa Silverstein at Women and Hollywood notes precisely the same thing happening at Cannes, where the few women directors haven’t generated much news but the loud, rowdy boys are getting lots of attention:

The egos on these guys are gargantuan.

Here’s what I mean, Lars Von Trier made a great movie Breaking the Waves and another one that I found unwatcheable Dogville among others, arrived at Cannes with his controverisal film Antichrist. At the press conference for the film he declared himself “the best film director in the world.”

Quentin Tarantino has also had some hits and misses followed and declared himself god in this statement about his film Inglourious Basterds: “I love [my characters] from this god perspective because I am god as far as the characters are concerned, because I created them.”

I just find these comments so bizarre and laughable and don’t think any woman director would ever declare herself the best film director or god. I hope that both Von Trier and Tarantino comments were greeted with chuckles. I wonder what would happen if a woman director said either one of those comments. I bet that it wouldn’t be all over the web in the same way both these guys comments are.

Last week at my “The Week in Women” column at the Alliance of Women Film Journalists, I noted how Jane Campion, at her press conference at Cannes, suggested that women need to grow a thicker skin if they’re going to succeed in film. But maybe women also need to embrace their inner egotist and a lack of fear in promoting themselves.

Or else our culture needs to start celebrating thoughtful introspection and modesty the way it does arrogance and big-mouth-ery. But that’s probably less likely to happen than women learning that it’s okay to toot our own horns once in a while.



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  • Saladinho

    I would be fine with a woman talking shit, rapper style, about her cinematic skillz. Usually, though, when a woman in the public eye has a large ego, it comes out in diva fashion, and it seems to be about demands they make because of their celebrity, and not boasts about their talent.

    Also, though, it seems because guys like Tarantino and Trier are met with such humourless reactions for the most part, that women in film will probably play it safe, so as not to look like jerks.

    But if I were Kelly Reichardt or Jane Campion, or Agnes Varda, I’d be walking around with a big gold chain around my neck.

    And like, freestylin’ out of nowhere.

  • MaryAnn

    Oh, also, I meant to say: I am goddess.

  • JoshB

    If memory serves a while back you were calling yourself the Geek Goddess.

    There are more geeks in this world than Tarantino characters, so now who’s egotistical? =P

  • Saladinho

    That’s a Leo for you…

  • JT

    I can’t wait for your review of ‘Antichrist’. Years ago, I wrote to you and mentioned that ‘Dogville’ was filled with misogyny and you disagreed with me. But now that von Trier has actually acknowledged a ‘misogyny consultant’ in the credits, I want to see how any woman will defend the sexism in his films.

  • As I recall, Breaking the Waves was quite misogynistic throughout (especially the last half hour), even though it had some amazing performances, particularly by Emily Watson. I never wanted to pay to see another von Trier film after that.

  • MBI

    Misogyny is such an overused word.

  • Arco

    There’s no shortage of egos in the field, and What Von Trier said is unbelievable arrogant. But to take offense at Tarantino’s statement is ludicrous. Of course he’s ‘god’ to his characters! If he’d said ‘I am the god of film making’ it would have been right up there with Von Trier’s nonsense. However, saying ‘as a writer I’m ‘god’ to my characters’ is not arrogance. It is true.

    Every writer is ‘god’ in the world of the story they’re writing. They literally created the characters and determine everything that happens to them. That, by definition puts any writer in a godlike position towards them. What on earth has making an observation about that fact to do with arrogance? It is simply a basic truth about writing a story.

    Honestly, I have no idea why anyone would take offense at this. And not being able to differentiate between the basic meaning of these statements doesn’t really help Ms Silverstein’s point. Basically, the only TRUE example given here is Von Trier’s statement, and generally one example does not make for a very strong case.

  • amanohyo

    I think the main issue is not that they’re arrogant, but rather the fact that they get so much attention, even when making pedestrian comments like these. I doubt the attention is solely because they’re male. It has more to do with their personalities and the type of movies they make. Subtlety, modesty, and thoughtful introspection will never trump platitudes or bombastic boasting as far as the media is concerned (assuming the two directors in question are equally famous).

    Instead of asking, “Can a woman film maker become famous without being an arrogant buffoon?”, we might ask, “Can any film maker become famous without making movies that are specifically targeted at a male audience?” I’m sure there are some counterexamples, but the only contemporary one I can think of is Almodavar. I guess Lynne Ramsey and Atom Egoyan almost qualify, but Ramsey isn’t that famous, and Egoyan’s movies are almost all about men, though it could be argued that they aren’t crafted with a male audience specifically in mind to the same extent that Tarantino’s and Von Trier’s films are.

    In the end, most directors make movies that they, themselves would want to see, so it’s not surprising that in a culture driven by the consumption habits of manboys, most of the things that successful, famous directors say are little more than playground boasting. I’m sure that every director, regardless of gender or fame or even talent throws out something thoughtful and interesting now and then (even auteurs like *shudder* McG and Brett Ratner), but why publish those thoughts when no one except film geeks like us will take the time to read them?

    At least for the next couple decades, a female director can have all the personality and arrogance in the world, and it won’t mean didley unless she also makes a string of movies that are popular among teenaged and twenty-something men or makes a single huge movie that women flock to see, and I mean Titanic/Gone with the Wind Huge, not just SATC or MBFGW. I wish it wasn’t so, and as usual, I hope to be proven wrong as soon as possible, but that’s the way it looks right now.

  • amanohyo

    duh, Woody Allen is another example of a famous contemporary director that doesn’t make movies just for da guyz. Can’t believe I missed that one. Sophia Coppola, Peter Greenaway, and Lina Wertmuller too. And even though I can’t stand her movies, Jane Campion qualifies as well.

    Ang Lee and Zhang Yimou? Maybe.. yep, there might be a few holes in my hypothesis.

  • Victor Plenty

    Arco, not every writer experiences the relationship to their characters in the same way. Many describe a more humble relationship with their characters, including a strong feeling that the characters have some form of life independent of the writer’s will.

    The objective fact of the writer’s “godlike” position is undeniable, but the subjective experience is often the complete opposite of “godlike.” In many cases, the writer feels like the servant of the characters, who seem to defy all efforts to control them, and generate their own story twists, which the writer never could have predicted before they emerged, fully formed, from unknown depths of the subconscious mind.

    So, Tarantino’s statement about enjoying his godlike role in relation to his characters does reveal a certain degree of ego, although not nearly as offensive as von Trier’s.

  • So, Tarantino’s statement about enjoying his godlike role in relation to his characters does reveal a certain degree of ego, although not nearly as offensive as von Trier’s.

    Which might explain why the one movie of his I unreservedly like is Jackie Brown–which is, of course, based upon another writer’s work.

    That said, I prefer that my writers who have a God complex be played by Emma Thompson…

  • Shadowen

    The best example of film-director evil was when Uwe Boll–UWE FREAKING BOLL–called himself “the only genius in the whole fucking business”.

    In comparison to that idiocy, nuthin’ compares.

  • Jurgan

    Boll’s a publicity hound and I doubt he believes his statements. It’s also theorized that he likes pissing people off so he can get worse reviews and fewer people see his movies. That’s if you believe his whole career is a Springtime for Hitler scam, which seems pretty likely.

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