The Girlfriends is a movie produced in 1978 and directed by Claudia Weill. The movie’s script was written by Vickie Polon (Tibbetts 270). In spite of the fact that it narrates about women, the movie cannot be considered feministic. Nonetheless, Girlfriends has some similar attributes to Agnes Vardar’s movie titled One Sings, The Other Doesn’t in terms of the theme and other technical aspects.
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The film is basically about two women who fight to sustain their companionship in light of a male-dominated society, marriage, abortion and family obligations. The women strive to keep a balance between their affection for each other and their affection for the men they love (Tibbetts 271). Claudia has kept the slice-of-life movie pragmatic and simple, with humor and charisma under the silence anxiety (Levy 6).
The Girlfriends bears similarities to Eric Rohmer’s movies of 1970s and 1980s in terms of style. The Girlfriends film is extremely stark and nothing much occurs in it. Nonetheless, the ordinary nature of the characters appears to attract the viewers. In a number of ways, the cast of this movie is plain and the scenery is very grey.
The dialogue is also mundane. However, the film possesses charm and warmth which draws the viewers (IMDB 1). In contrast to the openly feminist angle employed in the One Song, The Other Doesn’t, The Girl Friend’s film steers clear of feminist polemic, first-person storyline as well as the doubtful corroboration of fable and street theater. The Girlfriends film does not make use of didacticism and declamation of the Brechtian technique apparent in the Varda film.
The dialogues in The Girlfriends movie are moderate and oblique, and a superb sense of the accidental exists. What’s more, the movie does not purely confront us but rather shuffles alongside, serenely waiting for the audience to discern it. In other words, it is episodic, discourteous, baffling as well as ultimately unpredictable (Tibbetts, 271).
When Suzanne and Apple (characters in the Varda film) finally meet at the end of the film, we recognize it as a major triumph for feminism. However, when Susan and Annie (characters in The Girl Friends film) attain their final conspiratorial fete, we merely comprehend that the triumph of companionship is really a hurdling of portrayals. It is liberating as well as mysterious. However, according to Vickie Polon, this theme is rarely depicted in many movies. Vickie contends:
It’s hard to think of any American films that have intelligently treated changing female roles…recent films have demonstrated a new the power of women in major film roles…for that reason, am very pleased to see these films come out of Hollywood…I think The Girlfriends is a breakthrough in the treatment of female relationships (Tibbetts 271).
The movie begins with both Susan and Annie trying to conserve what they feel is actually the definite boundary of their existence. The first shot of the film discloses Susan taking a photo of the sleeping shape of Annie, her roommate. Later on, when Annie gets married to Martin, Susan relentlessly asks Annie if she is sure the relationship will work.
However, Annie settles for marriage because she feels that it embodies an extension of the reliance she has on Susan. The new situations that both Anne and Susan find themselves in justify new survival ploys (Levy 5). For Annie, it implies dealing with children and an oddly passive and quite spouse, as well as a shattered writing job.
For Susan, it implies learning to steer the unfamiliar terrain of a vacant apartment, coping assertively with her potential photography patrons, as well as her association with a mystifying world of men- a nagging boyfriend, a demeaning magazine editor, a lonely rabbi and an incapable cab driver (Tibbetts 272).
The movie does not present the story in the conventional sense of the word; neither does it reveal any objective lessons. In light of the tightly-plotted storyline, everything that takes place in the present is geared towards what Suzanne Langer describes, as a destiny, an essential scene which is the logical outcome of everything that precedes it.
The 19th century playwrights, such as Sardou and Scribe, and movie makers (e.g. Hitchcock and Lang) have previously explored this deterministic representation. Although most of commercial movies utilize clear-cut linear storylines, The Girl Friends intentionally does not lend importance to the causality in the arrangement of scenes and shots (Kubrick 2).
The film is somewhat plot-less (events and details are scattered). The details of the film are more autonomous and not tied to the overall plot structure. In fact, the main scene may be lost in general. However, the presence of a key situation or character unites this type of schema (Tibbetts 273).
The Girlfriends is united together by the fluctuating rhythm that alternately unites and divides Annie and Susan (IDMB n. p.). The screenplay and direction are arranged in a manner that keeps main themes at the edge of the vision (off-angle). As a result, events and characters in the film are depicted half out of the picture.
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For example, key themes in the film are oppression; marital mix-up and abortion are kept off-angle. Consequently, the news about Annie’s abortion is offhandedly slotted into a discussion about something else. What’s more, the love affair between Susan and her boyfriend takes place during a discussion on mashed potatoes. The relationship between Rabbi Gold and Susan ends when the former decides to take his family to a football match (Tibbetts 273).
The Girlfriends film seems to depict a deceptively off-hand appearance which in part is attributed to the oblique technique employed. This technique is described by Polon as “moment to moment quality, the deception of those little things that can make us make choices that reveal us as people” (Tibbetts 273).
These details are cautiously selected. He further notes that “the development of situations and the order of events are carefully thought out…there is an incredible attention to structure and character” (Tibbetts 273). The film also employs minor characters (e.g. the young female hitchhiker) whose role is to reveal the key characters in high relief.
On the same note, the incidental quality of most of the conversations in the film is illusory. The gibberish word-game between Susan and Annie at the end of the film provides the much needed relief for them in light of the alterations that separated them. For example, the obliquity of the conversation between the two characters about Annie’s abortion is among the outstanding aspects of the movie. It is the type of dialogue uncharacteristic of classic drama.
It lacks both mathematical and symmetrical structure. Therefore, the dialogue in the movie functions elliptically and follows a disjointed, zigzag course that is scarcely noticed in real life. However, the same might be referred to as absurd or naturalistic in the film or theatre. Evidences of this phenomenon abound in the movie.
For example, the numerous exchanges between Susan and Annie (as well as the hitchhiker); the scene (at the party) where Erik and Susan meet and pair up; and particularly the exchange between Rabbi Gold and Susan as they rest following a bar-mitzvah (Tibbetts 274).
Throughout the dialogues presented in the film, it becomes apparent that characters prod cautiously at each other, leap forward and back, always in search for what Strindberg referred to as chance cogs. The film’s obliquity seems to have derive its inspiration from Chekhov, especially from The Cherry Orchard play in which the characters appear to encircle cautiously around each other. It thus becomes irritating (Tibbetts 275).
Neither Annie nor Susan can be compared to any expedient outlines we may anticipate from the unshackled females of contemporary cinema or the sensational productions of classic movies. For example, Ann is neurotic, pinched and wan whereas Susan is short-sighted, plump and clumsy.
Thus, they do not present themselves in the center-screen. On the contrary, just like all other aspects of the movie, they are at an off-angle. For example, Susan peers behind thick glasses and camera tripods while Annie glances from behind loads of laundry and typewriters. Nonetheless, both Susan and Annie are intensely lively characters (Tibbetts 276).
According to Polon, some of the established definitions appear challenged by this film. For example, the characters have to deal with somewhat inflexible boundaries that segregate their lives. What’s more, viewers have to cope with a movie that constantly interrupts their assumptions and expectations.
The Girlfriends is neither a story movie nor a feminist polemic. Nonetheless, it amazes and amuses in its own distinctive way. The approach employed in the movie is oblique engagement (before the audience is aware, the movie seems to have emerged from nowhere). For example, during one spectacular scene when the rabbi and Susan rest (following a bar-mitzvah), the viewers become conscious that something wonderful is taking place even as the two characters engage in quite discussions (Tibbetts 276).
Questions and Answers
What is the difference between Hollywood films and The Girl Friends film?
The Girl Friend’s film steers clear of feminist polemic, first-person storyline and the doubtful corroboration of fable and street theater. It does not use didacticism and declamation of the Brechtian technique apparent in the Varda film. The dialogues in the movie are moderate and oblique and a superb sense of the accidental exists (an attribute not seen in Hollywood films). What’s more, the movie does not purely confront us but rather shuffle alongside, serenely waiting for the audience to discern it.
Briefly describe the plot-structure employed in the film
The movie does not present the story in the conventional sense of the word neither does it reveal any objective lessons. In light of the tightly-plotted storyline, everything that takes place in the present is geared toward a destiny, an essential scene which is the logical outcome of all that precede it. Although most of commercial movies use clear-cut linear storylines, The Girl Friends intentionally does not lend importance with regard to the causality in the arrangement of scenes and plots. The film is somewhat plot-less (events and details are scattered).
Briefly describe the oblique technique employed in the movie
The Girl Friends film seems to depict a deceptively off-hand appearance which, in part, is attributed to the oblique technique employed. The screenplay and direction are arranged in a way that keeps main themes at the edge of the vision (off-angle). As a result, events and characters in the film are depicted half out of the picture.
IDMB. “Girlfriends.” 2010. Web.
Kubrick, Stanley. “AMG AllMovie Guide: Girlfriends.” 2012. Web.
Levy, Emmanuel. “Film Reviews: The Girl Friends.” 2012. Web.
Tibbetts, John. A matter of Definition: Out of Bounds in The Girlfriends. Kansas: University of Kansas, 1978. Print.