(Barbra Streisand, USA, 1983)


If one imagines that a certain, rather overwrought sense of pathos is restricted to male filmmakers of a certain generation – the generation of Blake Edwards and his stand-in heroes, for instance – it's worth observing a similar sentiment in action in the films of Barbra Streisand.

Both of her extremely underrated features as director, the musical Yentl (1983) and The Prince of Tides (1991), display a psychotherapeutic intensity equal to Edwards'. They too broach changes in personal identity that are registered, with great anguish and trembling, as almost unthinkable, almost impossible to face personally or represent on screen.

Yentl concerns a woman (Streisand) who disguises herself as a man in order to live and be accepted within the Jewish man's world of learning and power.

This premise eventually generates a soul-searching among the three central characters (Yentl, the man she secretly loves [Mandy Patinkin] and his fiancée [Amy Irving]) as to the nature of polygamous, bisexual love – and a threesome sex scene which is clearly so mind-boggling in its implications that Streisand can only show its first fumbling moments before dropping the whole issue and speeding full steam towards a tidy narrative resolution.

Still, the film throbs with an intensity well expressed by Michel Legrand's plangent song-score.

MORE Streisand-as-auteur: The Mirror Has Two Faces

© Adrian Martin December 1993

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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