February 21, 2024
Sally Potter's THE GOLD DIGGERS looks the relationship between women and capitalism

By Abdi Ali
Published September 23, 2019

Thriller achieved international cult status as a feminist critique of the romantic drama.A feature film examining the relationship between women and capitalism and another that questions why the woman always has to die have been released to the market.

The two movies by a United State of America-based feminist moviemaking and distribution organisation known as Women Make Movies (WMM) are 90-minute THE GOLD DIGGERS that was released in 1983 and 34-minute long THRILLER that was made in 1979 but released a year later are both made by a British filmmaker called Sally Potter.

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“Sally Potter made her first 8mm film aged fourteen. She has since written and directed eight feature films, as well as many short films (including THRILLER and PLAY) and a television series, and has directed opera (Carmen for the ENO in 2007) and other live work. Her background is in choreography, music, performance art and experimental film. ORLANDO (1992), Sally Potter’s bold adaptation of Virginia Woolf’s classic novel, first brought her work to a wider audience. It was followed by THE TANGO LESSON (1996), THE MAN WHO CRIED (2000), YES (2004), RAGE (2009) and GINGER & ROSA (2012). Her latest feature, THE PARTY, was released in 2017,” WMM says.”Sally Potter is known for innovative form and risk-taking subject matter and has worked with many of the most notable cinema actors of our time. Sally Potter’s films have won over forty international awards and received both Academy Award and BAFTA nominations. She has had full career retrospectives of her film and video work at the BFI Southbank, London, MoMA, New York, and the Cinematheque, Madrid. She was awarded an OBE in 2012. Her book Naked Cinema – Working with Actors was published by Faber & Faber in March, 2014.”

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Sally Potter's THE GOLD DIGGERS looks the relationship between women and capitalism WMM says Sally Potter’s rewriting of Puccini’s opera, La Boheme, that was released in 1980, “has become a classic in feminist film theory. A model for the deconstruction of the Hollywood film, THRILLER turns the conventional role of women as romantic victims in fiction on its head. Mimi, the seamstress heroine of the opera who must die before the curtain goes down, decides to investigate the reasons for her death. In doing so, she begins to explore the dichotomy which separates her from the opera’s other female character, the “bad girl” Musetta. As rich in sounds and imagery as it is theoretically compelling, THRILLER provides the female spectator with a long-awaited recognition of her version of the story.”

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And what do the gatekeepers, journalists and critics, say about THE GOLD DIGGERS?

“Drawing from the same well of avant-garde anti-structure as enfant terrible Jean-Luc Godard and playwright Bertolt Brecht, Sally Potter’s whip-smart THE GOLD DIGGERS is brimming with cultural and political signifiers that combine to form a singular work in the feminist counter cinema space. Employing an all-female crew to shoot, compose, and design this proto-Lynchian world of romantic surrealism, the British filmmaker establishes herself as a trailblazer in this “search for the secret of [her] own transformation.” Babette Mangolte’s career-best cinematography elucidates a visual and thematic sendup of silent comedies, Depression-era musicals, and European arthouse cinema in an elegant, non-narrative ode to — and critique of — traditional Hollywood moviemaking.”- UCLA Film & Television Archive

“Stunning black-and-white photography by Babette Mangolte (best known for her work with Chantal Akerman), makes the film into a post-punk, Chaplin-esque labyrinth, where period dances, desolate landscapes, and deep reflections on the power of wealth and beauty collide.”
– Sonya Redi, Screen Slate

“A quarter of a century after its initial unfriendly reception, it’s worth puzzling over why a film as beautiful, as witty, as imaginative, and as brilliant as Sally Potter’s first feature could have given so much offense to certain spectators in 1983…” – Jonathan Rosenbaum

“Visually entrancing…. The Gold Diggers solidified Potter’s status as a wry, feminist satirist of the highest order, one whose adoration of theater and of classic silent cinema — and abhorrence of how women were treated in those films — had manifested in avant-garde riddles and one very jarring anti-musical.” – April Wolfe, The Village Voice.

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THRILLER, too, comes in for praise:
“Thriller becomes an exemplary sign of how pleasurable and how illuminating such a new feminist art might be.” Ruby Rich Reader

“Thriller achieved international cult status as a feminist critique of the romantic drama.” The Museum of Modern Art

“Potter’s black and white cult hit Thriller overtly equates revision with survival; the film invokes formal conventions to interrogate the narrative necessity of Mimi’s death… Scripted, edited, produced and directed by Potter, Thriller transforms the opera into, as the title suggests, a thriller that uncovers operatic form’s generic and gendered hypocrisy.” Senses of Cinema.

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