Yvonne Rainer b. 1935
Privilege begins with a documentary style exploration of the taboo subject of menopause and goes on to explore the historical medicalisation and trivialisation of women as they move beyond their child bearing years. Clearly ageism is a factor in this, but Privilege doesn't take on a pat victim mentality in it's exploration, rather widening it's gaze to consider the many competing forms of discrimination that exist in our society.
Privilege ingeniously shifts from documentary to fiction and back as it plays the effects of ageism, sexism and racism off against one another.
The effect of this is an extremely broad ranging and compelling social critique that goes to the core of the competing power relations that we all negotiate every day. In this, Rainer presents us with an image of a power infused world where all of our possibilities in life are mediated by different levels of social privilege largely determined by arbitrary social stereotypes. This subject matter demands an active audience as viewers realise that the real-world applications of the ideas that Rainer raises are endless.
Rainer's work takes under the skin key cultural theories such as Julia Kristeva's writings on abjection and Michel Foucault's theories on power and heirarchy. Yet thankfully in doing this, this rhizomatic film does not befall the same overly preachy or less than engaging fate that some of the feminist collective films of the past have. You do not have to be a convert of feminist or cultural theory to appreciate this film. Privilege's powerful performances, beautiful visuals and compelling subject matter really do stand alone.
Privilege's marriage of cultural theory, documentary, and the highest level of poetic drama creates an extremely thought provoking film that demands consideration as one of the most important cinematic social critique of the 1990's. A thoroughly fascinating film.