Female Perversions

Institute History

  • 1996 Sundance Film Festival


Female Perversions is a fascinating interplay of characters, imagery, and ideas as enacted and realized by a superb cast and multitalented production team. Beautifully constructed and imaginatively conceived, this debut film by Susan Streitfeld rides the crest of a brilliant central performance by Tilda Swinton and is a powerfully rich exploration of gender, sexuality, identity, and self-realization. On one level, the story concerns Eve (Swinton), a dynamic powerhouse of a district attorney, fresh from an impressive courtroom victory over a sleazy businessman and on the verge of her greatest triumph, a governor's appointment as a judge. But Eve, as we quickly discover, is anything but the fully confident professional woman she seems. Instead she is plagued by doubt and neurosis. Alternately domineering and submissive, she casts about for self-vindication and approval.

Meanwhile her sister, Madelyn (Amy Madigan), is even more screwed up, about to get her doctorate, but a victim of her compulsion to steal wantonly and her envy of Eve. When Maddy’s kleptomania lands her in a small-town jail, Eve attempts a rescue, and ensuing events create a vehicle for depicting and questioning a broad spectrum of personal, familial, and social tensions. A finely envisioned work that is serious in the best sense, Female Perversions is more than an archetypical journey of discovery and change. It‘s a beautifully designed mediation on feminine and feminist obsession and the patriarchal repression that produces it. Visually captivating and fully engrossing, this is the kind of intelligent filmmaking that is all too rare in America. With a trio of memorable supporting performances by Karen Sillas, Laila Robins, and Dale Shuger, Female Perversions should not be missed.

— Geoffrey Gilmore

Screening Details

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