22 January 2012

Working Girls (1986)

Pre-viewing thoughts:

1 - Why hasn't Lizzie Borden directed a feature since 1992, is she a bad filmmaker? Working Girls won the Special Jury Prize at Sundance in 1987, is that a big deal? What were the films at Sundance like that year, what was her competition? I've recently seen Poison, Todd Haynes 1991, (for its 20 year anniversary, damn), a movie that won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance, and while that movie is great in so many ways, in other ways I think it would be a better film if it were made today.

Conversely, is Lizzie Borden a great filmmaker? Will I discover a golden voice that's been lost for reasons outside filmmaking ability? What was the standard quality for production values in early American independent films, and are those standards more than superficial weaknesses, or are there more important, deeper flaws? How will the structure and subsurface of Working Girls compare with the structure subsurface of movies made today?

2 - Will the film be sexy? It was the title and the sexy cover that made me check the movie out on Netflix streaming. Not this original dvd cover:

but this First Run Features dvd cover:

Not sure I would've checked out the movie if I'd only seen the former cover. Seems unlikely. This five star review on Netflix further motivated me to watch the movie:
I actually worked in a Nevada brothel in 2006, and this film is ACCURATE. Girls lay a sheet OVER the bedding, a "trick sheet". The ONLY thing I noticed they did not include is when a man walks out without choosing any lady, you simply say he "walked". As in, "oh, that man walked". I had a male house manager who was obsessed with cleanliness and made us girls clean a lot too! And now they are REALLY strict on no drugs, at least the house I was at. I enjoyed this movie, it brought me back. The life of a 'working girl' isn't ALL bad. Many men tell you they REALLY like you. I would say it covers about 2/3 of brothel life and facts. There isn't too much storyline/plot, its more of a documentary, with erotic entertainment thrown in.
What does it mean that the film is accurate, and how erotic will the erotic entertainment be?

3 - What will I learn about the female perspective from a movie about prostitution made by a female? Will I learn about 'the' female perspective, is that possible? Seems like I'll learn about a female perspective. What will be the nature of my lesson, will it be emotional, moral, or environmental?

Post-viewing thoughts:

1 - The acting is like television acting. It often feels like watching a script. The dialogue is stiff and the readings are stilted. I don't feel like the director pushed the actors to break through their characters. I don't feel they were directed beyond playing roles. But the sequences often have nice rhythms, and these sequences accumulate in a nice way to make a fine, satisfying movie.

There are stylistic camera pans. There could have been more choreography between the camera and actors, i.e. more interesting blocking. The camera pans are mostly 'look here, now looook here' pans, but I liked them, and enjoyed their occasional replacement of shot-reverse-shots. The camera setups are varied enough that I didn't tire of being in a single location.

It was smart to make the time frame short, this helped me become familiar with the location and the routine minutia of the characters; surely primary objectives. The single location also focuses the movie, and doesn't feel 'cheap' like some single location movies do, because the single location has a reason and a purpose.

Lizzie Borden wrote, directed, produced, and edited Working Girls when she was 28. That's a terrific achievement. Judging by this movie she has talent that if nurtured could grow into something really special.

Working Girls moves at a nice, entertaining clip, but also has sincere, substantive interest in its characters and their lives. It's a job movie that happens to be about prostitution: it deals with the pressures and headaches of a controlling (and effective) boss and a demanding job, juggling work with an outside life, and wondering what your purpose is and whether or not you have the right job.

2 - I'm attracted to women and this movie is populated by strong female protagonists who are aware of their sexuality and often undress. But the film's tone is clinical and neutral because it doesn't want to sensationalize its topic, it wants to express a point about the mechanization of the sex act by its repetitive nature in prostitution. The sex acts are not conveyed in a sexy way, and overall the film isn't very sexy, except women in lingerie are sexy, they can't help it.

3 - Sensed the female filmmaker's desire to address exclusively female activities, like inserting diaphragms, exclusively female experiences, like straight sex with men, and exclusively female perspectives, which were different for each woman. Each character in Working Girls, male or female, is distinct from the others and interesting due to diversity and contributions to a larger perspective. Maybe sometimes Borden went too far to give her film perspective; it feels like a bloated day, and there's even a birthday celebration!

There are many insights into the lives of working girls. Funny how so many guys want to meet Molly 'on the outside,' like they each feel that they have a special, meaningful relationship with her. One man asks Molly to come during sex, and she says she never comes in this place, and he says "there's always a fist time." Feel like if a man says that to a woman he has little chance of making her come. I was touched when Molly gave the teacher dating advice, like how to put his arm around a girl and how to give the first kiss.

Found this conversation interesting:

Molly: Hey Gina, how's your boyfriend?
Gina: I'm not seeing him anymore.
Molly: No? Oh, I'm sorry.
Gina: It's okay, it's nothing.
Molly: What happened?
Gina: Well, you know, when our relationship first started I decided I had to be really straight about this job, and I told him look, if you really love me you should be able to deal with my working. And then I thought, if he really loved me, how could he? You know?
Molly: Yeah.
Gina: Does Diane know you work?
Molly: No, no. I decided not to tell her. I just don't want her imagining what I'm doing here.

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