Combustible Celluloid
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With: Louise Smith, Deborah Banks, Liz Caldwell, Marusia Zach, Amanda Goodwin, Boomer Tibbs, Richard Davidson, Ronald Willoughby, Paul Slimak, Fred Neumann, Patience Pierce, Ellen McElduff, Grant Wheaton
Written by: Lizzie Borden, Sandra Kay, from a story by Lizzie Borden
Directed by: Lizzie Borden
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 94
Date: 05/28/1986

Working Girls (1986)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Apartment of Ill Repute

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Lizzie Borden co-wrote and directed this detailed, entrancing look at a day in the life of a New York brothel. I saw it on VHS back in the 1980s; I liked it a great deal and was pleased to see it again. Molly (Louise Smith) is the main character, a lesbian living a normal life with her partner and a child. She bicycles to work and changes to her "work clothes" when she gets there (her partner doesn't know what she does for a living). The other girls range from older veterans to younger newcomers. One girl, the loudmouth Dawn (Amanda Goodwin), used to work the streets, but is now putting herself through college. Borden doesn't shy away from sex, but focuses on the routine of it rather than erotic fantasy. We see the closet full of tissue, toilet paper and towels, and that answering the phone is as important as pleasing the customers. Lucy (Ellen McElduff) is the "madam," who seems flighty -- she greets each customer with the refrain: "what's new and different?" -- but runs the place with an iron fist. The girls discuss things like having lunch and why they took this job, but it never feels expositional. It feels like a real discussion captured by a documentary crew. The acting isn't always professional level, but it's a mesmerizing film. Borden worked on a few more films and TV shows, but apparently hasn't worked since 1996.

DVD Details: First Run Features has released this film on DVD with a commentary track by Borden, as well as cinematographer Julie Irola and Goodwin. We also get a photo gallery and a trailer.

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