The Filmmaker Karyn Kusama Explores the Many Dimensions of Women’s Rage

From ‘Girlfight’ to ‘Destroyer,’ her movies are distinguished by her willingness not to revel in brutality but to look it in the face.

Comments: 23

  1. I still remember where and when I saw Girlfight. The power of it. Looking forward to this one too -

  2. Looks like we can look forward to a slew of cheap nasty revenge porn. Bad art follows where good art leads.

  3. Excited to see this film. I love Kusama’s work. If you haven’t seen the invitation, please find, sooo good and Girlfight of course.

  4. What an enjoyable, well written piece.

  5. I'm anxious to see Destroyer. For years, all I ever knew about Nicole Kidman was the fluff celebrity content on the internet and in magazines in doctor's offices. Marriages, kids, red carpet fashions, etc. I wasn't aware of her remarkable talent. Then I saw The Interpreter almost by accident and was stunned by her ability. She was virtually unrecognizable. And in the Destroyer trailers, she is much more so, to an alarming degree. Regardless of how deep she has gone in these performances, she may not have yet revealed the full extent of her range. Scary thought.

  6. @Mortiser Kidman's talents and range are formidable. Keep exploring her film and TV work, and happy viewing!

  7. @Mortiser, it is too often true in movie making that exceptionally pretty actresses are held back by their looks. They are cast in pretty-girl roles that don’t fully mine their talents. When they get to the other side of young, and get a wrinkle or two (filled, lifted and lasered, of course, but you can’t hide everything), directors start to see there is more to these women than what Julia Louis-Dreyus, Amy Schumer and friends called (in a hilarious video worth looking up...search on “Last F able Day”) the “effable” factor. When they cross the Great Divide with the power that Kidman, Julia Roberts and other, Big Box Office, leading ladies have, these women get offered glorious, challenging parts. Charlize Theron was exceptionally brave to break that mold and do her (Oscar winning) very non-glamorous “Monster” role a truly the age of 27 or 28.

  8. Finally, the world is realizing Karyn's brilliance. She was a genius in high school and she still is today. Can't wait to see the film.

  9. Thanks for this incisive and graceful profile of a powerful artist.

  10. What kind of mother would take a 10-year-old and her younger siblings to “Eraserhead”? Or any Lynch film for that matter. And not leave when one of them started crying? To send the 10-year-old out to the lobby to sit with the kids and stay through the rest of the strange, kinky film? It’s a revealing anecdote and a great lead-in to this profile, but I am so sorry that happened to Karyn Kusama and her siblings.

  11. @Passion for Peaches As Karyn's mother, I am responding to the above comment. The account of my taking my children to see "Eraserhead" is incomplete at best and may well reflect the vagaries of memory of events that occurred 35 - 40 years ago. (I am not sure Karyn was 10 at the time but how could that be verified or disputed?) We went to the movie with a neighbor and her 2 children. Both of us mothers thought the movie sounded interesting but lacked access to on-depth reviews that are available today that might have changed our minds about going with our children. At one point everyone went to the theatre lobby but Karyn's brother Kevin and myself. I do not want to sound defensive but do not recall anyone "sobbing" or my asking Karyn to take her younger sister to the lobby so that I might watch the movie "in peace". Before you feel sorry for Karyn and her siblings I would suggest that you dialogue with our family and friends who could counter the tenor of this "revealing anecdote". BTW, despite the statement that I "was an occupational therapist" I am still very much alive, albeit a retired occupational therapist.

  12. @Susan Kusama Hello, Mother Kusama, I read the anecdote and identified with it and didn't think you sounded like a bad mother at all. My memory was that my own mother "allowed" me to read _The Exorcist_ at 11 and that she urged me to pay attention to the explicit scenes in _Equus_ at the Walker in MNPLs when my parents took me to the play. My memories were incomplete, though, and my parents reminded me that I pilfered and hid _The Exorcist_ in my bedroom, reading snippets at night, and that my mom covered my eyes during the eye gouging and nudity in _Equus_ (and that they were surprised at how disturbing the play was). Don't let the alarmists get you down--parenting is hard, and god only knows what an author will choose to include and emphasize from an interview with a filmmaker in an attempt to create order/meaning of the myriad and chaotic details of an artist's life.

  13. Way to go Susan Kusama! It’s hard being a mom, and I suspect it’s hard being interviewed, too [re: the younger Kusama]. You might relay an incident as you remember it, thinking it illuminates your youth, and then it is perhaps taken out of context. ~ Hey, I tried to watch “The Lobster” with my 12 year old son, and he’ll never forgive me for the toaster scene — yeah, we made it that far, past some . . . pretty twisted stuff. In my defence, I didn’t know where it was going! And then I was entranced and gripped and I wanted to see it. Although I did stop watching “The Lobster” after that scene (we were at home — not an option available in the ‘70s), how much do kids really need to be protected? Sometimes it’s better for kids to come across difficult ideas and emotions when they’re next to mom rather than alone. What do we want — kids growing up on a Disney experience where there are always happy endings? I hate it when my son watches mindless violence, but sometimes complicated art is important. It’s hard to always know where the line between stretching a young mind lies, versus disturbing or upsetting them — especially based on a movie blurb.

  14. Here we go again ... another pop media figure, living in extraordinary comfort, hailed as the voice of deliverance. Is it that the authors of these articles, and their editors, don't understand (or don't care?) that there are working artists all over the country, from faculty adjuncts to cold water flat squatters, who take real risks, and pursue real art forms -- you know, the kind where you don't hire people to write, light, shoot, edit and score "your" movie?

  15. Rome had the coliseum and the Circus as venues for entertaining via shocking brutality. Today, we have filmmakers like Lynch and Kusama.

  16. I found "...Kusama creates controlled moments of tension and violence..." to be disconcerting. The signals that registered in my mind were: "That sounds a lot like behavior indoctrination. Aversion therapy for violence." I'm okay with violence in films, so long as its necessary to tell the story. But I think I'll pass on "controlled moments of tension and violence" for its own sake.

  17. Why must every Hollywood movie include vomit scenes? Most of us have puked often enough to know what it looks and sounds like. There were so many in The Favorite that the audience was visibly & audibly annoyed. So many movies show this that it’s not an interesting or shocking directorial choice...it just looks like a lack of imagination (not to mention subtlety) on the director’s part. Please grow up (and treat your audience as adults.)

  18. Absolutely wonderful article. I don't understand why so many of these comments are negative. The honesty astonished and enlightened me. Thank you!

  19. This is an extraordinarily well-written piece. It is beautiful in its layout, its immediacy and its insight. I've never seen any of this filmmaker's work, and I'm not especially interested in her work at this time. Nevertheless, I drank in every word of this article. It was so seamlessly crafted. It speaks of dedicated interviewing, observing, research, thinking and writing to produce such a perfect piece.

  20. The writer of this article was able to portray the characters involved in creating this movie. It depicts the power of words. She paints a portrait with words of the creative art of making movies . How I wish there was more use if the written word. Unfortunately the public is so used to making judgments from simple blurbs and reviews. Please don't let anyone stop publishing both or even three parts of a story. The writer made it possible for me to explore a movie that I never had any intention of seeing, although I've always been a Nicole Kidman fan. She's always had an honesty in her performances that some directors were afraid to show. Again, kudos to the writer of this magazine piece and I will always look fir more articles from her

  21. Girlfight was an excellent film. Four years after it was released, Clint Eastwood came out with a similar film, Million Dollar Baby. Eastwood and the star of the film, Hillary Swank, got much more attention for their than Karyn Kusama and Michelle Rodriguez (the star of Girlfight) did for theirs. But I've seen both films, and Girlfight was the better of the two. I say this as a fan of Clint Eastwood (as a director) and of Hillary Swank. I've also seen one of Kusama's other films. She is very talented. I'm looking forward to seeing Destroyer.

  22. This is a beautifully written article. I love the quote “I still believe that a lot of people want to feel safe enough to watch something, and they long to be challenged once they feel safe.” That says a lot about art — it sums up exactly how I feel.

  23. Why the extraordinary focus upon atrocity, apocalypse or horror in American films? Or upon apparently thoughtless or indifferent parents in telling stories of one's childhood?