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Seidelman Follows Her Own Path

With `She-Devil,' director tackles a topic Hollywood has neglected: the politics of femininity. FILM: INTERVIEW

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SUSAN SEIDELMAN knows all about New York women. She's one herself, and her movies have been full of them - from the offbeat ``Smithereens'' to the hit ``Desperately Seeking Susan,'' the recent ``Cookie,'' and the brand-new ``She-Devil,'' starring Roseanne Barr as a vengeful homemaker and Meryl Streep as a glamourous rival for her husband's affections. ``She-Devil'' had its world premi`ere in ``Projections of the New York Woman,'' an exhibition on-screen recently at the American Museum of the Moving Image here [see article at left]. Several women have invaded the male-dominated world of movie directing in recent years, and Ms. Seidelman is the most active and successful of them all. During a recent interview at the museum, I asked her if it is difficult to work in such a gender-skewed environment. In response, she pointed out that her position has always been a little removed from the filmmaking mainstream.

``I tend to be slightly outside the industry,'' she says. ``I choose to live in New York instead of Hollywood; so I don't have to play the game. I started out as an independent; in other words, I gave myself my own opportunity. I decided no one was going to hire me; [so] I'm not going to even waste my time knocking on doors. If I don't do it for myself, it's not going to happen. I didn't even attempt to try the `normal' route. I think a lot of women who have ended up being directors have gone a circuitous route, because - let's face it - most of the studios are still run by men.''

How can Seidelman claim to be an ``outsider'' when most of her films are full-scale Hollywood productions?

``I do get my funding from Hollywood studios,'' she admits, ``but I tend to see myself as riding that thin line: I am not really part of the system, but I can't pretend to be totally outside the system. ... I make only films I want to make. Thus far, I don't really consider myself a director for hire. I am not attached to a studio where they say, `You have got to do this movie.' So I still consider myself pretty independent.''

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