Capital Celluloid 2020 – Day 29: Wed Jan 29

Girlfriends (Weill, 1978): ICA Cinema, 6.45pm

The Machine That Kills Bad People is, of course, the cinema – a medium that is so often and so visibly in service of a crushing status quo but which, in the right hands, is a fatal instrument of beauty, contestation, wonder, politics, poetry, new visions, testimonies, histories, dreams. It is also a film club devoted to showing work – ‘mainstream’ and experimental, known and unknown, historical and contemporary – that takes up this task. The group borrowed their name from the Roberto Rossellini film of the same title, and find inspiration in the eclectic juxtapositions of Amos Vogel’s groundbreaking New York film society Cinema 16. The Machine That Kills Bad People is held bi-monthly in the ICA Cinema and is programmed by Erika Balsom, Beatrice Gibson, Maria Palacios Cruz and Ben Rivers. This is tonight’s choice.
New York Times review: 
One of Girlfriends' many gentle astonishments was brought to mind by a viewing of Alex Ross Perry’s recently released feature “The Color Wheel”—namely, that, for all the discussion of the directorial art of comic timing, the art of knowing just how near or far to place the camera to an actor, the art of comic distance, is equally important in calibrating the humor of performance. Weill is psychically close to her protagonist, the young photographer Susan Weinblatt (played by Melanie Mayron with an audacious vulnerability), but doesn’t stay so visually close as to short-circuit her humor—both the self-deprecating kind and the kind, achieved with a hint of critical detachment, that Weill sees in her. Even scenes of anguished, ambivalent commitment evoke Susan’s whimsical, dialectical jousting, her blend of studied reticence and irrepressible spontaneity. The movie catches a moment of new expectations for women, when professional assertiveness and romantic fulfillment were more openly in conflict, but it also catches the last days of an old New York, a time when office buildings were not guarded fortresses but open hives, and when—peculiarly similarly—the boundaries between professional activity and personal involvement were less scrupulously guarded, perhaps even undefined. One of the wonders of Weill’s movie is in its intimate crystallization of the inchoate; it propels Susan Weinblatt and a city of young women into the future, and it’s terribly sad that Weill’s—and, for that matter, Mayron’s—own careers didn’t leap ahead in the same way.
Richard Brody

Here is Brody's video discussion of the film.

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