The Gold Diggers

Thu, Aug 21, 2014

Dir. Sally Potter, 1983.
89 min. UK. 35mm.
With Julie Christie and Colette Laffont 

Imported 35mm print courtesy of the BFI. Special thanks to James King and Fleur Buckley.

A singular film, Sally Potter’s feature debut is a potent creative and intellectual stew of music, Marxism, performance, dance, and the economies constructed around gendered imagery. Featuring Julie Christie and non-professional actress Colette Laffont, whose working class French-African background contrasts against Christie’s Anglican movie-star image, the non-linear narrative blurs distinctions between the characters’ fantasies and realities, proceeding with a freeform structure that resembles nothing in either avant-garde or mainstream film, riffing on the tropes of silent and classical Hollywood cinema while folding in the talents of an eclectic, international group of stage, musical, and performance artists. The film was shot by an all-female crew and is highly reflective about gender disparities and surplus value of labor among working class women and, particularly, those in cinema, giving it the overall feel of essayistic narrative abstraction.

Largely met with perplexed, negative reactions at the time of its release, The Gold Diggers has steadily accrued cult classic status for its brilliant and anomalous sensibility. It also represents a stunning array of collaborations, including appearances by dancer-director-choreographer Hilary Westlake and drummer Marilyn Mazur, an integral score by the late Lindsay Cooper (also co-author of the script), and cinematography by Babette Mangolte, who previously shot films with Chantal Akerman and Yvonne Rainer and is known for her photographs documenting experimental theater in the 1970s and ’80s. Especially noteworthy is the breathtaking 35mm location photography shot in Iceland with no small effort by its relatively inexperienced crew on a limited budget.

Even at the time of its initial release, Gold Diggers was rarely shown in 35mm, circulating primarily in 16mm that reduce the detail of Mangolte’s photography. We are very pleased to be presenting this print from the archives of the British Film Institute.

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